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NauenThen

More about The House

I think it's that we all felt the same way about the House & knew that we did. Not every single person who passed through the doors, of course, but a lot of us. Most of us? That we are willing to say it. That we still & always felt & feel it.

Steve followed up with this reminiscence. All of it & more:

In the fall of 1970 my best Air Force friend, Forrister, and I took our cat and moved out of an apartment in Laurel, Maryland, and into a little house in Severn bequeathed to us by our friends Ric and Gary. Our new abode was a simple wood frame structure, nondescript, the last house on a dead end street in a working class neighborhood. It came with a little yard, and an area of woods that began where the street ended gave us a sense of seclusion, enough that we started letting the cat go outside. A house of our own – that’s all we imagined it would be - but it became so much more.

Within a few weeks a couple of our friends moved in with us, and then a few more. By the spring of 1971 the little house in Severn was a hangout for a group of like-minded airmen who were outcasts from The National Security Agency (NSA). Some of us were apolitical, but a dislike of Nixon was near universal in our ranks, as well as a shared belief about the war in Vietnam. We found each other and we became ‘us’, hippies at heart everyone. The little house was full, and then overflowing. The old woman who rented it to us grumbled about it a little, but we were endlessly polite and nice to her when we went to pay the rent at the start of every month, and she let us slide.

Some in our group continued to go into work at NSA, but an increasing number of us had lost our security clearances for various reasons, mostly anti-war activities or a suspicion of drug use. None of us had ever been caught or arrested for drugs, but at NSA simple suspicion was enough. If the Air Force thought of us as a bunch of misfits or worse, often giving us menial jobs while deciding what to do with us, we thought of ourselves as a close knit group of kindred spirits. There in the house, for the first time in my life, I felt like I fit in.

In addition to those of us who were more permanent house members, there was an itinerant population - friends of friends, old college roommates, hitchhikers picked up on the highway. And in time there were women. I don’t remember who officially lived there versus who just hung out there a lot. I do know there were only two bedrooms, but frequently about a dozen people spent the night. A trip to the bathroom by way of the living room late at night was often like negotiating an obstacle course, trying to step over bodies sacked out on the floor. Early on I had claimed a little central utility room as my own. It was barely large enough to throw a little mattress on the floor and store my meager belongings, but it offered me a little privacy when I wanted to get away from all the hoopla.

We smoked a lot of dope. Maybe that’s why I don’t remember a lot about the mundane happenings there. I don’t remember what we ate, where we got our groceries, whether or not anyone cooked, how the dishes got done. Surely the house had a shower, or maybe it was just a bath? I have no idea. There was a small lawn out front, but I don’t remember how the grass got cut. I do recall that we started calling the cat Mama after she had kittens, but have no idea what we did with them. I know the rent was paid each month, but I can’t imagine how we divvied it up among us. Such things took a back seat to those that really mattered to us.

A big poster of a carrot with a calendar of 1970 at the bottom hung on the wall near the phone. It was left up after its expiration because our home phone numbers were scribbled all over it - Forrister (404-3778439), Marcantonio (617-3299702), and mine (803-5790290). Sam from Memphis, Phil from Ohio, and many more. Up in the top right hand corner someone had written “Dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope.” Such was 1971.

Elinor, who I met at an anti-war demonstration in DC, and her friend moved into the house in May. We have been close friends ever since, long after “the house”, as we so fondly recall it, ceased to be. During the periodic times when we visit with each other, we always spend some time reminiscing about that magic Spring/Summer of 1971, when the house overflowed with sleeping bags and the sound of the Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young hung in the air. And always there was James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James”, which played repeatedly on the 8-track all night one time after everyone had crashed. Elinor and I agree that the house, during that special time with those special people, played a central role in the directions our lives would take, and we would not go back and change a minute of it.
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