Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cool Beans

I've gotten unstuck in Time.  Just like Billy Pilgrim, Vonnegut's old friend.  It happened easy enough. A dear friend mentioned a book by Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried"; it's a semi-fictional account of his time in Vietnam.  I like O'Brien, a good writer.  So I check out the library listings and he has a book from a few years ago, "July July" that I hadn't read.  So I picked it up.

In a nutshell, in the book, it is class reunion time, Class of '69, in Northern Minnesota.  The reunion is taking place in 2000. And suddenly I got a little unraveled.

I have my HS class reunion coming up, HS class of 70, Western Wisconsin  I am not going.  I have a college-boy reunion coming up the following weekend at a lake near Keshna and the weekend after that, a niece's wedding over by the Mississippi River.  I can't do three weekend road trips in a row, but reading the book, thinking of  missing my HS reunion..... brought back a bunch of memories.  Some I had not thought of in a long time.

I remember kissing Nancy on my 17th birthday.  It was the sweetest thing that ever happened to me. I can still taste the wonder of her in my heart.  The summer of  1970.  The movies we went to-the books we talked about- the smooth smell of Coppertone on her sleek brown legs-the way her smile looked in moonlight-the beach at the lake where we would swim and while away days.  The little banter.  I remember feeling, " This is what I want. The life I want."   I have no idea where she is now. I loved her more than anything.  It was all too soon , and that made everything else all too late.

I took my draft physical a couple of years later.  Milwaukee was never as cold as it was that day. I was never as alone as then..  The war was still a good shoot-'em-up deal, my lottery number was 33, and I knew I would  never come back went to Nam.  I would have been that kind of soldier.  I remember thinking.... would I be going back to college to take final exams?  Marrying my girlfriend who was two months 'late'?  Going into the Army?  I took the exams, she had her period, finally, and I flunked the draft physical.  But that was a cold cold night at the bus station trying to get home and I realized that, in a sense, I would never really have a home to go back to.  I didn't think about it much as the years went by, but the whole experience changed me greatly.  Ob-la-dee Ob-la-dah.

There were other girlfriends... several in the next few years.  Suzanne, Suzi, Sue, Kate, Kat.... Maureen.  I would like to talk with Maureen sometime.  She didn't fit into a typical mold. For one thing, no name with a K or S. 

 I remember turning  into a radical, stop-the-war student.  Protests and rallies. Tequila and Mescaline. I was a cab driver at nights.  And I met Kathy. Loved names with a K.  She had a thing then for long haired hippie peace-niks who drove taxis.  We would see each other periodically over the next 30 years. It became an on-again-off-again thing.  I last ran into her at a wine-tasting a couple of years past.  It was most certainly an off  year. We said hello. We said good-bye. I know precisely where she is today.  That's life.

I got married, had children, had a divorce .  The marriage was OK, the kids are great, the divorce worked well.  But nothing has ever eclipsed the summer of 1970.  I don't dwell on it.  I would like to talk with Nancy again..... mostly to just hear that she is good.  That her life has been good.  It won't happen.  I don't dwell on it.  One book leads to another.  All things are linked, one book  leads to another whether we like it or not.

The other day I was slicing onions and peppers to throw into a crock pot with beans and ham hocks.  Stupid clumsy me.  The knife slipped, did a 360 in the air, bounced off the counter, dropped to the floor and impaled itself in my big toe.  Freaky.  It wasn't serious.  It bled a little.  But I looked down at the damn thing sticking straight up out of my toe and I had to laugh.  Hey,,,,,,,, it looked really funny, whether I liked it or not.

Life is like that, sometimes,and sometimes the recipes are uncertain.  I don't dwell on it.  One thing leads to another. Books, beaches,  The letter K, the letter S......... the beans were delicious.


Randal Graves said...

Man, if only you had had a camera rolling, you could have been a YouTube star.

I've got my 20th next year - dude, you are so old - and I'm not going, but for each of us, there's always that one year that's a touchstone of a sort, that's always hanging in the background, no matter what's happened since.

Groovy post, my man.

Christopher said...

Great post.

Wisconsin is such a beautiful place and somewhere I could probably call home, if for none months, anyway and then to Florida, or North Carolina for the other three.

If the winters were milder, there goes the neighborhood, because you would have another 3 or 4 million residents to deal with.

Liberality said...

Ouch! That had to hurt a little.

I'm glad you have memories of kisses and tan legs. I know that Coppertone smell!!! Used to hang out on the beach every summer and get dark as a coffee bean myself.

okjimm said...

Libs... I should have taken a photo of the knife in foot.... usually I have foot in mouth! ;)
Chris../3 or 4 million residents to deal with./

oh we have that each summer... we call the Il-annoy-ians...mostly Chicago folks.

Randal... thanks. Really.

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