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My college career began in the fall of 1967 at Michigan Tech in the Upper Peninsula on Lake Superior. Logistically, that’s a strip of land on a spatial plain near the next planet farther from the sun. For a big city kid, the trip up there involved a spaceship, an Eskimo coat and a little backward time travel. But, I was on a mission.
Civil engineering was in my blood. I wanted to build bridges; arch, beam, cantilever, cable-stayed, suspension, tied-arch, and truss. Any of them, all of them. I could actually see the plaque with my name, my honorary stamp, on those bridges. It was going to be a wonderful life. Then the school counsellor handed over a pre-set bundle of first semester courses which included Analytic Geometry, Physics of Motion, Chemistry, Engineering Mechanics, and Structural Analysis. I sharpened my pencils, pulled out my pyramid-shaped slide rule and set to work.
About twenty minutes into my self-imposed curriculum, I suddenly realized my civil engineering blood had drained from my body, packed its bag, put on sunglasses and headed south without so much as a Dear John note. The only way I was going to get my name on a bridge was to spray paint it on. When I looked up from the graph paper where I was trying to draw a straight line with a ruler, the world had changed.
The Doors had burst on the scene with Light My Fire. That turned out to be the spark that lit my own fuse though I didn’t know it then. I fell without a parachute into a blossoming subculture that reshaped my reality, figuratively and perhaps a little too literally. I moved back south to the University of Illinois and changed my major to "Staying Out of Vietnam".
To keep this blog to a short story, let me just mention several experiences during my remaining school time - taking part in the 1968 convention protests and Chicago 7 trials, distilling LSD in chemistry lab, hanging with Carlos Santana, Garcia, Grace Slick and others in the Haight, and attending Woodstock (There’s an old saying, “if you remember the ‘60’s, you weren’t there.” But there are some things you never forget. I remember what 19 was like. I remember being hungry, buzzed, and pumped on adrenaline. Dirty and wet were in a dead heat for superiority. We shared what we had and only took what we needed. I remember dancing to the non-stop music permeating it all. What I don’t remember is another time like that).
Ah, the gracefulness of youth. Those are stories for another time.
My College Career - Part 1
Coming of Age | The Hollow Man Series, International Espionage