Today is the first day of a week long vacation. So, of course, late yesterday afternoon I started sneezing. By late last evening and overnight, half of my head was inflamed, glands were swollen, and so on and so forth. My friend Larry, who gets married this afternoon, has pancreatic cancer and has just started chemotherapy. It would not be a good idea for me to attend his celebration. Ah, well.
This time of the year has any number of reverberations in my memory. My father passed away on June the 8th, 2000. It was in what, 1993? or 1994? while living in Boston that I went into hospital for a week with a very bad case of pneumonia. I've never been the same since. I almost missed the show of peonies in my garden. I had a plot in the Back Bay Fens, in what had been the WWII Victory Gardens. That was a rather wonderful garden, if I do say so myself. With the old roses and the peonies in bloom at the same time, you could smell my garden at least 100 feet away. I won an award for it.
And it was on a Monday, June 10th, 1968 to be exact, that I graduated High School. I received a special
award for being the "most dependable". No one in my family ever congratulated me or commented on it. Back then, I was the only student who could be in the hallways between classes without an official pass. I was head of the audio visual department, as well as the managing editor of The Dragon, our school newspaper.
Those were heady and disturbing times. In just the few days before graduation, a woman named Valerie Solanas shot Andy Warhol, Robert Kennedy - running for President - was assassinated, and the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr. (who had been shot two months before) was arrested. There had been riots in Paris when the police cracked down on striking students. The Vietnam War was always in the news, as was 'Black Power'. The musical "Hair" had opened on Broadway. Simon & Garfunkel were singing about Mrs. Robinson, and Otis Redding was (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay. There was a cake melting in MacArthur Park, The Ohio Express had embarrassed the world with a song called "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy", Aretha (who was was to be on the cover of Time Magazine by the end of the month) was getting lots of airplay for her song, "Think". The Beatles started a new company called Apple Records. A new house cost $14,950.00 in a time when the average income was $7,850.00 a year (minimum wage was $1.60 per hour). The average cost of a new car was $2,822.00, and gas was 34 cents a gallon. It cost you $1.50 to go see "2001, A Space Odyssey", "The Odd Couple", or the movie everyone was waiting for which opened later that week, "Rosemary's Baby".
Salvador Dali created the cover of that week's TV Guide, which felt appropriate, as tv was often surreal between the news and the variety shows, cop shows, and crazy comedies. There was Ed Sullivan, Lawrence Welk, the Hollywood Palace, the Kraft Music Hall, Jackie Gleason, Carol Burnett, Jonathon Winters, Red Skelton, the Smother's Brothers, Dean Martin, and Laugh-In. There were big star recent release movies being shown every night of the week in prime time. You could also see shows like Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, Peyton Place (which was on twice a week, and which had just made the change to color from black and white), My Three Sons, Hogan's Heroes, Mission Impossible, a Flying Nun, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeanie, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Green Acres, the Avengers, Mod Squad, That Girl, and Star Trek. We didn't know it then, but the first Big Mac would be sold the following September, forever changing food and creating a world of chain stores.
That was the world into which I was being ejected. I was glad to be done with High School, and glad to be done with my little town. In a few days, I would leave my father's home forever as I went to find work for the summer in Ocean City. It occurs to me now that I also went off in search of myself.
Over the years, I've often heard people wish to be 17 (as I was when I graduated) or 18 again, or want to relive the '60's. Not me, once was enough, Thank You.