Eckerd Drug College. I landed in Florida Presbyterian College in 1969, graduated with honors in '73. Actually I graduated from Eckerd College; they changed the name in '72, part of the elaborate show required to land a major donor.
I did study Swedish for a term, to no avail. I didn't know what I wanted out of college, but I knew I needed to go. For one, I wanted to. I loved to study and discover, and I wanted to be around other people who were studying and digging into cool stuff. I also wanted to play, take drugs and groove with free-lovin' hippie types, and FPC looked like a good fit. Peace, man. I also needed to dodge the draft. They shot down my try for conscientious objector status, so a student deferment was crucial unless I wanted to emigrate, and I didn't.
Eating my highfalutin' stoner words with a nice glass of chablis. I arrived at FPC an enthusiastic dope smoker. I was one of those annoying potheads who looked down on drinking as an inferior high. Pot was so natural, didn't make you tired, no hangover, god's herb blah blah blah. I found sources on campus and escalated from toking in the evening to smoking a nail out my dorm window before heading off to a morning lecture. It was college, stoned. But it didn't take long for that to catch up with me. One night I sat down to an easy essay assignment and found I couldn't keep my focus, couldn't maintain a train of thought. My head was full of stoned gobbledygook. I was scared. Had I broken my brain? That's a fear that hit me where I lived. I went to bed early, and when I got up I was OK and finished the assignment, but I was shaken. Pot was now on notice. I was also paranoid. Everyone knew someone who was doing time for possession. Being paranoid doesn't mean there's not someone following you. I started leaning a bit more towards beer & wine.
He left me his fridge when he graduated I lived in Newton House, at that time an all-male house. My assigned roommate as a freshman was a weirdo. I couldn't make him out, but he gave me the willies. I was very interested in changing rooms if I could swing it. Raul was a senior and a really sweet guy; his room was two doors down from me. One day I was complaining about my roommate and he invited me to move in with him for spring semester. His roomie was graduating early, so there'd be an opening. Raul lived in a corner room, sought after because they're larger. Raul was easy to live with, encouraging and kind. He also had a refrigerator in his room, which was not technically allowed, but the RA turned a blind eye.
I didn't like living alone; I'm still that way. When I came back as a sophomore, I didn't apply for a roommate, and glory hallelujah they didn't assign me one, yahoo! I had scored the campus housing trifecta: a corner room as a single double. It cost more, but my folks didn't complain, god bless 'em. And then midway through the year I did an about face: I invited Bob to join me in my precious single double.
I never heard from him after college. I always wondered how his life had gone. I got to know Bob in high school. He was the drum major for the Melbourne High marching band, and a good trumpeter. I liked him; he was a sweet, intelligent guy. Also gorgeous, strikingly handsome. In a twist of fate, Bob would become the guy making my relationship with Hutch complicated. I never held it against him; he was a sweetheart and I could sure see what she saw in him. Better than I could see what she saw in me, truth be told. Bob liked to drink, and since I had quit pot I saw this as a good influence. We started going to an Italian joint called Michaelangelo's. They had their version drown night on Wednesday: the bottomless sangria pitcher. We went religiously, our midweek drunken Sabbath. We started keeping beer in our fridge: Old Milwaukee that we got on on sale, 99¢ a six-pack. We started having a beer as we were winding down every evening. We both sang pretty well, and we'd harmonize on "Just a beer at bedtime," sung to the tune of I'll be home for Xmas. Bob was a good friend.
A time so far off in 1971 it seemed humorous, the punchline of a silly joke. Over the course of my first two years of school I built a solid foundation for drinking that would last me until 2016.
The things you learn about too late, sigh. I entered college 2 years after the Summer of Love, determined to make up for lost time; I was still a virgin. Turns out I could've got laid easy during my senior year at Mel High, but I was clueless, utterly flirtation retarded as several would-be lovers flirted with me strenuously.
Confession. Before I start telling the stories of all my amazing girlfriends in college, I need to set the record straight. I was an arrogant, self absorbed, small minded mean spirited asshole. I still don't know what any of them saw in me, but they did see something they liked, and I thank heaven for that. I'm forever grateful for their patience, forbearance and love.
Hutch. But as a senior I remained fixated on my girlfriend Hutch (once I broke up with her best friend Annette), and I'm glad I did. She turned out to be the real deal, a true friend and long blonde lover, the one who talked me down from my self-imposed exile a few weeks before Sam died. We just didn't become lovers until college. But eventually our relationship became complicated, as they didn't say back then. At first I tried being OK with that, but I couldn't hack it, and we parted ways. As I rediscovered in a big way in Boulder, I'm just not much good at poly. Unless it's my idea. Or, well, Ilse.
I stayed a lousy lover until the 2010s. In college my tendency to crush on redheads finally went away; it had never done me any good anyway. In college all my lovers were blondes, though my biggest crush was a brunette; she was just never available. As things soured with Hutch, I took up with Caren, a fierce and gorgeous Jersey girl. We didn't know about EQ back then, but Caren's was astronomical. She confronted me with the ways I didn't treat her very well, pulling no punches. And hadn't treated Hutch very well, once those stories were out between us. She made me squirm. I'd like to think it did some good; it did with her, at least. But later relationships did not bear that out.
We traded pix and I could see that pretty slender girl still there in her. I had a huge crush on Diana the whole time I was at FPC. She was a soft-spoken slender brunette with buck teeth that were just perfect. She was Duke's girlfriend. She liked to sing, and had a sweet alto voice; I would play my guitar for her singing, learning the art of accompaniment. We harmonized a bit but I mostly just liked to hear her sing. I was a songwriter of sorts in those days; I wrote bossa novaish love songs with lots of major 7th and diminished chords, including one or two for her. We became good friends. At the time, I wanted more, I wanted to be her guy. Now I see how perfectly it worked; we were music lovers and close friends. It was a relief to hang out with her. There were none of the complications that sex burdened my relationships with, lousy lover that I was. She was the only friend from college that I got back in touch with in the 90s. I never found out what happened between her & Duke; I didn't ask. I found her online via FPC alumni info. She was in a care facility for MS patients in the Midwest. She said she always thought of me as the one who got away.
I was sad but it made sense. Ilse came outta nowhere. She was German, she transferred in mid-year, she was very forward and sexually liberated, gorgeous, and she liked me. It was like bam! and we were an item. All my girlfriends are beautiful, of course, duh. But Ilse was in a category to herself, way outta my league. But I wasn't complaining! We were monogamous at first, then she got another boyfriend. She was able to make it work; we were actually poly for a few months. Her other guy was an MD. He's a public figure, so I can use his name: John C. McCamy. He wrote a book: Human Life Styling (it's on AMZ), and I was interested in his shtick. I became a patient. The first step in his program was to establish a medical baseline, so he scheduled me for bloodwork. I remember the glucose tolerance test fondly (not). There was an initial blood draw, and then instead of making me drink something sweet, he told me to go out for a sweet breakfast, pancakes with lots of syrup. Then I got retested every hour or so to see how I handled it, so it lasted most of the day. I felt like a pincushion. I never completed the program because the poly collapsed. Ilse said he wasn't into that anymore and wanted her full-time, and she was gonna go for that for practical reasons, him being a successful professional & all.
What was valuable about our relationship is nonverbal; it doesn't make a good story. Linda was my biggest romance at FPC, the one I moved back to St Pete for to see if I could patch things up with. Linda and I hooked up my junior year, when I was settling into my thesis work, settling down a bit from all the craziness of my first two years. There was always something different about my connection with Linda. She was good looking but no beauty queen. She was nurturing; she made my life feel better; she made me feel more at home in the world. These are the qualities I look for in a partner. With Linda I started to grow up a little. There's not much more to say about her except the basic plot: I fell in love with her and we were together for a little over a year. In my senior year I left her for Liz, and then once that blew over, I made my way back to St Petersburg, in hopes of winning her back, and I did. We moved to Tallahassee together but soon drifted apart, remaining good friends.
After this huge embarrassment, everything just fizzled, and Liz headed home, out of my life forever thank god. Liz was exciting. She was tall and whitish blonde, fun loving, air headed, and she reeked of Southern aristocracy. I was so nuts over her I proposed; she was so air headed she accepted. After I graduated we had two visits: I went to visit her and meet her mom at their summer home, a cottage on Sea Island, Georgia. Then a bit later she came to visit me in Tallahassee. Sea Island is an enclave for rich folks. It's privately owned, and the cottages are mansions. I had a great time and was mos def starry eyed. Liz's mom, the only one with any sense, got her suspicions abundantly confirmed, and quietly proceeded with her plans to put an end to this nonsense. When Liz came to visit me in Tallahassee, she stayed at the Holiday Inn. It would nevah do for a single lady to stay with a man, even her beloved fiancé. I went to see her as soon as she arrived; we met at the pool. Then we went up to her room and were just chatting, still in our swimsuits. Suddenly the door burst open. It was the motel manager. He was reading me the riot act. Rich people have ways of making things happen.
When I got engaged to Liz, I cast a gold engagement ring for her and mounted a star ruby in it. In college I got back into jewelry making as a metalworker, not a lapidary. I did metalwork for a year as a semi-independent study project; there were no faculty with metalwork experience. Instead I worked with Ed, a former FPC art student who was making a living as a jeweler. I would go to his house and spend the afternoon, sometimes well into the evening, working under his supervision. I did both metal fabrication (sawing, shaping, soldering silver), and lost wax castings in silver & gold. I had an absolute blast. Ed started me out with fabrication. He considered casting a lesser art because all the creative work was done with wax, not metal; it wasn't hands-on enough for him. My first project was to fabricate silver chain. Fabricating a soldered silver chain is meditative; I had to pay attention. I created links by wrapping silver wire around an iron rod and sawing along the length of the rod. Then I soldered each link, threading it through the previous link and closing it with tweezers, placing the tiny bit of solder just so with a brush tip. No fingers: skin oil diverts solder flow. Then sweeping the air-acetylene flame back and forth until the solder ran. If it ran back to the previous link I had to start over. Ed educated me on many levels. The first time I got there, he wouldn't even talk to me about metalwork until we'd had a beer together. Ed drank Tree Frog Beer; that's what he called Budweiser. Tree Frog, the beer of choice among the low-life denizens of Zap Comix, was our constant companion in jewelry class. Ed was a biker, and he looked the part. He had tats, long tangled hair, and a big pot belly. And a Harley, natch. He made lovely jewelry. There was always country music on the radio at Ed's. Ed introduced me to country music, especially outlaw country, Waylon & Willie & the gang. It was whole-life education there with Ed.
There was an independent major program at FPC called Jefferson House. It wasn't a building, it was an idea: create your own major, your own field of study. I couldn't come up with a field of study I wanted to throw myself into for the two years it would take to graduate in an academic field. I took a philosophy survey course as a freshman and got really into it. I liked the philosophy prof, and he was intrigued by the way I thought. We had some great discussions outside class. He turned me on to language philosophy, especially Wittgenstein. I considered majoring in philosophy but never declared. But that prof was my starting point for a thesis committee. Theater appealed to me more than anything, so I declared it my major as a sophomore. But I didn't have any acting talent. I was way too much me to convince anyone I was someone else. But I loved being part of a play, and I thought I could make a career in theater tech, so I threw myself into makeup, props, lighting and played bit parts. I had fun with all of it, especially in London. But my wisdom knew that was a dead end. Theater is nothing more than entertainment, an enemy of love. My musical background led me to consider a music major. But music students are a breed apart. They'd all been studying and practicing hard since their single digits. The academic disciplines seemed like job factories, and I didn't care about jobs. I wanted to major in love. I came up with a brilliantly harebrained plan: brilliant for allowing me to study my topic, and harebrained regarding career prospects. I convinced them to let me study Comparative Mythology. It was what I wanted to study. When I graduated I would go to culinary school and become a chef. I was serious about becoming a chef. My thesis committee chairman quoted Bulwer-Lytton below his John Hancock on my proposal: "We may live without friends; we may live without books; But civilized man cannot live without cooks." What a dope. Me, not him. He was a brilliant guy who turned me on to Faulkner, my favorite literary poison for many lives.
All it took was the palpable threat of death. In my sophomore year I went in for a routine checkup. I hadn't seen the doc yet, just the nurse for vitals. I must've been coughing because he stuck his head in the door and asked "How long have you had bronchitis?" A keenly developed sense of hearing. When it was my turn, he listened to my chest and I told him about my 1969 head-on, and the broken ribs and the collapsed lung. There were x-rays, and Q&A about lifestyle. I'd given up pot, but was smoking a pack of Marlboros a day. He put it to me straight. I had fibrous scar tissue in my right lung; I'd had bronchitis for who knows how long. If I didn't quit smoking I wouldn't make it past my 40s. So I quit, breaking my first addiction.