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NauenThen

The House

I spent time this morning looking for pictures from the House. I could only find one, which I pulled out to bring to work to scan & illustrate today's post. But now where is it? And now I'm discombobulated & am going to repeat my April 24 post from 2 years ago. April 24 being the most significant date in my life. My life changed permanently on this date in 1971—49 years ago. Read on!

 

How would my life be different if Beth & I hadn't hitchhiked to Washington D.C. on this date in 1971? If she hadn't woken up with that sweet smile she always woke up with (one of my favorite things about her) & W-- hadn't fallen in love with her and she with him? What if I hadn't been "stuck" spending the day with his friends, who became my lifelong friends? More than friends: the people who shaped my life, who've had my back, who understood what it was like to be in our world together, who I've learned the most profound lessons from, who I trust implicitly & explicitly.

 

I try to write about The House all the time, but I never manage to actually say what it means to me. "I guess you had to be there," I think people conclude.

Well, today is my day to be sentimental & nostalgic about those times & if I keep trying maybe I'll get it.

 

I wouldn't know people in South Carolina & Ohio & Ecuador if not for The House. I probably wouldn't know someone who worked at a Ford plant for decades, or who lived off the grid, or who came from such a different background & expectations that we wouldn't have been able to start. But the egalitarianism & kindness of the people who lived or hung out at The House made these connections possible.

 

I suppose rather than say What It All Meant, especially given that I'm no longer 19 (ahem) & kind of out of the practice of Big Thoughts, I should tell stories about those times & those guys.

 

Stories like this one: Across the street was The Other House, where "the jocks"—Jason Yoon, Mike Davis, a rolling cast—lived. Why did we call them jocks? I realize it's because every once in a while they would shoot hoops for an hour.

 

Soon I will get out my notebook from that time—I've been reluctant to read it because I'm afraid it's full of Grand Conclusions & not really about anything. Also, I didn't know in 1971 that this would be central to my entire adult life.

 

I found a letter Teresa wrote me a few years later: Was it real? she asked. Did we really feel the same & see it the same? She had to check, I think, because while we knew we were profoundly connected but we didn't know how to believe it. It was so unlike anything any of us had ever experienced.

 

Yes, my sister, it was real. And still is.

 

2020 Update: One thing I just thought of & have never mentioned, I think, is that until I got to the House, only my family ever called me El. To this day, the only people who spontaneously shorten my name to El are people I become good friends with. I was always El at the House—family from the start.

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Monday Quote

Billy, me, Teresa, Steve. 

It is easy to love people in memory; the hard thing is to love them when they are there in front of you.

~ John Updike

 

Perfect quote for this trip, which was largely undertaken in order to spend time with 3 of my oldest friends. Steve & I met at the last big anti-Vietnam War demonstration on April 24, 1971, and have been close ever since. We are now in Cuenca, Ecuador, spending as much time as possible with Teresa & Billy, who I haven’t seen in quite a few years. That doesn’t matter. We are connected in a primal way & there isn’t a moment of fumbling to start talking. A lot of what we talk about is how our experience together affected us—transformed us—but we also are enjoying each other’s company in the here & now. 

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A most pivotal date

How would my life be different if Beth & I hadn't hitchhiked to Washington D.C. on this date in 1971? If she hadn't woken up with that sweet smile she always woke up with (one of my favorite things about her) & W-- hadn't fallen in love with her and she with him? What if I hadn't been "stuck" spending the day with his friends, who became my  Read More 
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As good a time as any

Hi, Bill! Happy birthday, Teresa!
I've been thinking a lot about a friend whose birthday is today, a wonderful woman who I've seen in person only a couple of times in 30 or 35 years, who I was out of touch with for a long stretch of those years.

Who is, nonetheless, a central person in my life.

That's because we met at The House. I've written about The House a lot, but I'm not sure I've explicitly said that those relationships are so formative that the people who were there & who felt the same will always be in my heart's inner circle. It doesn't matter if we aren't current. I maybe feel it a smidgen more for the 2 or 3 women who were there that summer, who also believed that people could live together in harmony & optimism, who also smoked a lot of pot & took a lot of acid (bonding in its own way), who love me as purely & directly as I love them.

Grateful always.  Read More 
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April 24

I always like to arrive at this date, because on April 24, 1971, my friend Beth & I hitchhiked down to D.C. for the last big anti–Vietnam War demonstration. She woke up smiling on the lawn in front of the Lincoln Memorial, the young man who happened to be sleeping next to her fell in love, & thus we fell in with The House, which has been my tribe and lodestone for 46 years now.

I've written about The House so much, today it's just a tip of the protest sign to these men & women I love & always will.  Read More 
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Veterans

Bill. I managed not to get a photo of all of us.
Spending Veterans Day with 3 of my favorite vets:
Steve Willis
Gene Forrister
Bill McFarland

Three of the Air Force guys I originally met at or just after the last big anti–Vietnam War protest in D.C. in 1971. We have been fundamentally connected ever since. Bill had moved dozens of times in the last 35 years & only resurfaced a couple of months ago, so seeing him was incredibly wonderful. We are still & always The House.

I'm the only one who still has a  Read More 
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Amaze amaze

I was grouchy when I got up—too muggy, spinning my wheels, no one getting back to me for an article that's due in less than a week, etc etc etc.

And then ... Something Happened.

Steve & I had tried many times to track down our old friend Bill from The House. We wondered if  Read More 
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War stories

We were "Air Force hippies," our eyes opened to the unjust war in Vietnam only by doing as our fathers did, joining up. Or we were against the war, but thought the Air Force was different from the Army. Or we were antiwar protestors who reconsidered our contempt in order to be friends with soldiers. We were cynical about red-white-&-blue holidays but we loved our home ground & its people. We became friends then because of our politics & many of us remain friends now despite our politics.  Read More 
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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: Read More 
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The House redux

These Air Force (Farce) name badges of friends from long ago are of interest only to me (& a few others), I do know that, but that time in my life is still so alluring & resonant. Everything about it is in my cabinet of fascinations, and if I find (out) something new, I can live on it for days.

I remember so much yet knew so little about any of the guys. Maybe when we were 20 there wasn't that much to know. We had no pasts except  Read More 
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Many a slip

I woke up so happy to have reconnected with one of my friends from the House after many years (decades!). In my head I had half a meditation written on old friends, formative years, another stab at trying to explain just what was so important about that time & place, how fantastically great it is to talk to Mike  Read More 
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1971

I can't find my little cache of photos from The House. This was taken in 1979: Forrister, ?, me, ?, Billy McF
On this date, 43 years ago, my life changed. I hitchhiked to D.C. with my friend Beth to go to a large demonstration (500,000 of us!) against the Vietnam War. We slept overnight on the Mall & she woke up next to a guy who became her boyfriend for the next 3 years. I was stuck with his friends for the day, but they soon became of lifelong importance. We all lived in a hovel in Maryland known as The House. I learned to have fun & deep conversations, I discovered I had allies in this long strange trip, I still love Steve, Forrister, Phil, Theresa, Sam, Max, Paul E, Frenchy, Billy, Bill, George, the Man of Good Humor, Wayne, even Duane.

Breathing is also hard to put into words.  Read More 
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