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February 17, 2010


It was true... John had thought long and hard on graduation, about how well he knew his fellow students, and realized he felt nothing, and no interest in participating. It was becoming a familiar theme to him... not joining groups. He just didn't fit in. He knew that.

His parents expected him to go to graduation, he knew that. The fact he had to go to graduation made it repulsive. His yearbook was filled with "best wishes"... and he liked some of the women, had the normal fantasies, although what few attempts he'd made to date, ask them out only made him feel worse. So John said "no", to the biggest event in one's youth. He spent his time in his upstairs lab, where he had his chemical laboratory, which back in 1972 wasn't unusual... nerdy, but chemical supply houses dealt with lots of amateur chemists. John also had a complete electronics lab... what did he need people for?

Then there was the draft... it was the spring of1972, the Viet Nam War was going strong, although there was talk of "ending the war". But there'd been talk of ending it for years, and it was obviously hopeless - the politicians couldn't do the right thing, and find a way to end it. Back then there was a draft... a draft-lottery, and he'd had the unfortunate luck of drawing a very low number - in the teens, which meant, come the fall after he turned 18 he'd be be going to that war. Those friends he had, of course they all drew high numbers, so wouldn't go. Just his luck.

The summer of 1972 was a blur. He had a job, at a discount department store... he worked evenings, went full time to school. He dated a woman with dark hair, a very attractive slender figure, that was the cousin of a co-worker of his. John got together with her on the weekends usually. Yet years later there was little to remember about what they had done together. He remembers only the time they spent on her couch, kissing, laying on top of each other. But she wouldn't "french-kiss"... and John really wanted to experience it with her. "Due to a past relationship", she'd said, a guy who she'd been seeing and had dumped her, "no french-kissing". What's worse, laying there on the couch with this vital, attractive woman,  he could feel all her firmness and softness through her sweater, but no skin. He tried, for 3 years he'd tried...

He had a 1969 Ford Mustang then, with a V8-289ci engine - one of the best Ford engines ever made. He loved that car... his father had helped him pick it out, get him his first loan, and it had a 3-speed standard transmission. Chrome wheel's and lettered tires, hood-locks and fog lights. He loved that car... even was able to go off road with it the engine had so much power and torque. He thought he loved his girlfriend too... but at that age had no idea what he was suppose to do? The road-map he'd grown up with suggested he was suppose to ask her to marry him... and then they'd be french-kissing. As naive as he was, and he was plenty naive, that just didn't seem like a good idea.

On John's 18th birthday he had plenty to celebrate! The draft had actually ended August 31, 1972... it had come about completely unexpectedly. Ahhh, what a sign of relief that was! He'd had to consider things prior to that declaration like moving to Canada, cutting off a finger or toe - saying he was gay; well, that wouldn't fly - back then better to cut off a finger than say one was "gay". But now, he was free.... he didn't need to worry about the draft, or the war. Of course he was to begin college. He wasn't sure he wanted to do that. A break would have been nice... but it was expected, and his parents were paying for him to go.

But in 1972, John was also able to legally drink alcohol at age 18. Most states at that time were the same. He remembers spending his 18th birthday in a bar, alone. Yes he was still seeing that attractive brunette... and where she was that night will forever be a mystery. They still saw each other for at least another fun-filled year, but this night that John turned 18... he did it with the bar tender and other strangers there. The important thing was, he was now an adult.

He left the bar that night with one 8oz. beer for the next night, to drink at home after work. The 8 oz beer in a can back then were called "pony-beers", half the size of a regular can of beer.

John is looking back... in fact, this story is all about him "looking back". Growing up, it was no surprise that John would look forwards to finishing high school, turning 18, becoming an adult. But what he had at 18 wasn't much the way he figured it. He'd read a lot of books, managed a C average, enjoyed science classes, but had spent the majority of his time dreading school, fearing the constant bullying, and other than an "intense one week going steady with a girl in 8th grade", he knew nothing about male-female relationships. The next "step" after college was to get a good job, get married, buy a house and have children - for his mother who wanted grand-children. That was his road in life. That was the only road... and although he questioned it - there were no alternatives.

He opened that "pony-beer" after work that night while watching Star Trek... the original Star Trek. He sat in the family room on the couch with his beer and potato chips. All was going well, until his mother entered, saw him drinking a beer and told him in no uncertain terms she would tolerate No Drinking, despite being of legal age to drink. Not like they didn't drink their Manhattans! He tried to remind her that the family rule was "...if it was legal it was okay". That's the rule they lived by, or that's what he'd always been told. But she would have none of it. She made him dump the remaining 4 oz. of beer, and he vowed he'd move out as soon as possible after that.

Next time - Divine Intervention...


  1. That's how you get kids to move out give them rules they can't abide by. Not that it was her intention.I'm sure she had control issues. Mary

  2. Yeah, lol! Problem with John's mother was she meant well - she loved her children. But she, like the whole extended family had the same idea of "control"... a road-map their children were suppose to follow.

    It always intrigued me in later years the story I'd been told of the little bird growing up and someday flying off alone. To us kids it meant something far different than the adults of those days. What saddens me is how very disappointed such parents would have been when their children strayed... I'll bet you we'll read where John feels very guilty in the end... rebelling against authority and choosing what would eventually be described as the Long Road in life!

  3. It is funny, in an odd way, how the freedom we all expect to be so great at 18 or 21 often is much different and restrictive than expected.

  4. Hmmm... that, is, well, based I think on our concept of freedom. In another way that comment is, ah, so true... however, you may find, John didn't have anywhere near the expectation of freedom, as what he discovered, nor did he perhaps expect the sort of restrictions he encountered. I don't think, my character John had any idea what to expect... but, as the old saying goes... "careful what you wish for, it just might come true"!!!