Anonymous yet personal, this Blog chronicles
the daily events and musings of Jim.
It provides an easy way for his friends and family to check in on him,
and serves as a online repository for his random
thoughts, kaleidoscopic flashbacks, and writings on an array of diverse topics.
“Deconstructing Jim” is simply here to
entertain you, but not intended for college credit.

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Chapel Hill, NC, United States

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Reunion of the "Concerned Students Coalition"

It amazes me that brain cells can be so resilient.

Last week I had a reunion with some old friends that I have not seen for a very long time. At least in one case, it had been about 36 years since we talked. When a group of people who grew up in the same place and time reunite in the present universe, it's bound to create sparks of mental activity. That is exactly what happened Thursday night. Our reunion was boisterous, wild, and very entertaining.

Laura (seated second from the left) arrived the night before on Amtrak for a visit. She just retired as a second grade teacher from the public school system in NY state. Next to her is Kim, who's beautiful house in the suburbs were were visiting. And Corky (on the far right) shares with me (sitting on the far left) the dubious distinction of being a transplanted New Yorker who came to Red Sox Nation many decades ago.

Kim, on short notice, agreed to host us and our respective families for dinner. Everyone brought something to the feast: Corky and Cathy contributed ice cream and cookies; Laura, Jim, and Willemien brought fresh tomatoes and mozzarella from Wilson's Farm; and Kim and his lovely wife Susannah made a classic Northern Italian pasta seasoned with bread-crumbs and freshly cut basil from their amazing backyard garden (where Laura was in her element). Kim provided a constant flow of fine red Italian and Spanish wine that he selected from his stock.

There was so much to talk about: not only from the days of our youth, but everything that has intervened in the world since. But invariably the discussion would return to the days of our adolescence in the late 60's and early 70's.

Although as individuals we had forgotten many of the details from that period, as a group we could remember an amazing amount of common history and fact. The stories about what we did in those days for entertainment would fill volumes.

Just to recount a few memorable points...

Although I appeared to be the only one who actually made it to Woodstock in 1969 (more on this in a future posting), the Rahsaan Roland Kirk concert at Mercy College seemed to be a big event in the small town.

I found it interesting that Corky remembered something my brother Larry said that night... Larry, a jazz connoisseur who had heard Kirk perform many times before mentioned "this percussionist brings tambourine playing to a whole new level." I was there that night too, with Susan E. who was very impressed with Kirk's circular breathing technique and his ability to play multiple saxophones at the same time.

(I would see Kirk for the next and last time up close in the Boston Public Library not long before his untimely death from a stroke. He was blind, and was searching through the braille-coded phonograph records in the lower-level music section of the Boston Public Library. I was too shy to go over and strike up a conversation).

In our teenage high school years we had two favorite hangouts...

It was at Laura's house where many of us would flock at lunch hour. It was very close to the High School, and her parents were unusually tolerant of us. A favorite activity was to put on the TV in her living room and mute it. Then we'd accompany whatever daytime television show was on with music from a randomly selected album of music. We found endless amusement in the chance associations that were derived between the visual and audio dimensions while drinking herbal tea and snacking on crackers. It has hard to go back to class.

Our other refuge was the "Peace Center" in the basement of Susan and Christine's house. This place doubled as a movie theatre for 16 mm black and white films that their mom would bring home from her work at a film distribution company in NYC. It was there that I remember seeing WC Fields for the first time.

But, in the era of the Vietnam War, we couldn't sit idle and escape into the comfort zone of silly movies all of the time. I remember getting my draft card at the age of 18 (which I still have), and knowing that the annual lottery for the military would be just around the corner. My brother Larry had a low number, but eventually got a deferment for medical reasons. His friend Wayne (the older brother of our host Kim) was not so lucky. He got drafted and went to Nam, but was one of the lucky ones to return alive and physically unharmed. I vividly remember Wayne telling myself and J. Alexander (the bass player in my band) what it was like to be in the heat battle. It opened our eyes, and we were next in line so to speak. We were more than "concerned." Wayne went on to become very active in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Last week at our reunion, we were having collective amnesia about the official name of our anti-war organization. Fortunately, I got an email from Susan who remembered that it was called "The Concerned Students Coalition." Susan, Eric, and Christine all played vital roles as well as others too numerous to list here (such as Dr. Joe, Robert, Floyd, Ann, George, Tom J., Tom B.). Kim apparently made a mass-mailing to the public and the organization received enough donations to pay the phone bill. I often wonder if our little group rated high enough to be placed on something similar to Nixon's "Enemies List" or to have the phone tapped by the FBI.
If anyone from this circle is able to locate their copy of the political and sarcastic song "Spiro Agnew, we love you, we do" which was recorded on LP, it will be digitized and posted on this blog.