48 out of 60 days with 12 afternoons, which means I never made it through a whole day.
One day the principle had me down there in his office with this whole pile of excuse
notes I had plainly written (must have been about 48 of them) and an English
composition paper and he was comparing the handwriting. The last thing I remember was
going out the door, scared as hell, not knowing where I was going to wind up next.
After several months of pushing a broom around the local grocery store, I found myself
joining the Army with a base salary of $70 a month. Several months had passed when I
was sitting on a garbage can peeling potatoes and the news rang out that President
Kennedy was dead. Up until that point in time, the one security I felt was that my country
had it together, but when that happened, you know something’s wrong. My sense of
patriotism went down the tubes as I watched a millionaire Texan President send more and
more men to a distant land none of us ever heard of. Up until that time, word in the Army
was we were in bad shape because the only “wartime experienced” soldiers were Korean
vets and they were retiring. It’s almost as if a war was needed to prepare the Army.
Eight years later I was sitting in my own little office on Madison Avenue wearing a $200
Oleg Cassini suit, a Pierre Cardin shirt and tie and boots to match. I had over ten suits and
may combinations of expensive shirts and ties so that I never had to wear the same
combinations if I didn't’ want. It was 1971 and I had been out of the army for five years.
Two years before I had graduated from a junior college in Orange County, California
with a business degree. In that summer I remember reading in the newspaper about
Woodstock, which was really a couple hundred miles to the north of New York City
where I was but probably one million miles from where my head was. Prior to
Woodstock, there were posters and a lot of conversation about a gathering to be held
there and it seemed that at the time anyone who was Woodstock-bound had no place else
to go or nothing else to do. The mood of the country was split based on what your
position with the Vietnam War was.
I remember talking to some parents whose sons were off fighting. Right or wrong, all
they could cling to was patriotism and the belief or hope that someone knew what they
were doing. If you couldn’t subscribe to that point of view, the line was drawn and there
you were. If you weren’t into apple pie, baseball and what your country was doing, you
were an outcast. Generally speaking, if you were an outcast you had nothing else to do
and could spend a week upstate at Woodstock. The world looked on astonished as several
hundred thousand people battled the elements together in a kind of harmony that
civilization had ever knownunpoliced.
Back in my office on Madison Ave, I was one of the only young guys in the company
and there were a lot of young secretaries, most of them looking for Mr Right. Now in the
summertime back East, most people flock to beaches like fish out of water. There
happened to be a little community out there called Fire Island, accessible only by ferry
no cars. In the beginning of the summer, people lease the beach homes and sell shares
through newspaper ads. Usually the houses have four bedrooms and you’d have from 12
to 24 co-ed inhabitants per weekend. With no supervision or visible police enforcement,
a certain freedom could be felt. By Sunday afternoon, you were looking forward to going