Monday, October 28, 2013

Singing, "Oh no, William and Mary Won't Do"


I went back to my old school this past weekend, my first homecoming in 41 years.  And a strange experience it was for me.  I wandered through the campus and environs like a ghost, picking out spots where this and that had happened:

The patch of ivy in front of the Colonial Williamsburg offices, where Ann and I lay kissing until somebody came out to chase us away because we were depressing the office drones.

The music building where Crazy Tom got busted coming out of his cello lesson.

The Wren Building, where Richard Nixon slipped in the back door to avoid the protestors out front for a televised meeting with young Republican students shipped in from other colleges, then sneaked out a side door to avoid seeing the protestors then at both front and back of the building.

The President's House, where I went caroling with a group of friends, in the futile hope of getting a glimpse of the president of W&M, whom none of us had seen since freshman orientation.

Bryan Hall, where we were cursed at by the dorm's occupants.

The foot of the Sunken Gardens, where the Group Mind, fueled by a great deal of LSD, went to look at the alligators.

The life sciences building, where we used to ride on top of the elevator.

The very spot (close by the statue of Thomas Jefferson) where, shortly after graduation, I took the last thirty-seven cents I had in the world and threw it as hard and far away from me as I could, because it was the only worthwhile thing that could be done with thirty-seven cents.

The Earl Gregg Swem Library where I worked for two years, and whose stacks I haunted in order to learn all that the rest of the college could not teach me.  And which contains not a single one of my books.

The brick walkway where, to her lasting astonishment,  I picked up Sally, spun her around in the air, kissed her, and set her down again.

The patch of grass where, during an antiwar vigil, in an uncharacteristically private act of conscience, I burned my draft card.

Old Dominion Dormitory, which once seceded from the student union.  I came home one night to find it surrounded by very angry policemen because Turtle -- who barely evaded capture and arrest -- had painted FUCK THE PIGS in very large block letters across the roof.

Crim Dell, an inexplicably beautiful pond crossed by a wooden Japanese bridge, right in the middle of the campus, where I would go whenever I was heartbroken and needed peace.

Phi Beta Kappa Hall, where I worked as a stagehand for the production of Cabaret starring Glennie Wade -- now rather better known as Glen Close.

By the end of the day, I was feeling . . . not alienated, exactly, but isolated.  Distanced from the happy boisterous homecomers whose college experience had apparently been so much more what it was advertised to be than was mine.  But then, in the evening, I went off to the Clarion Hotel, where something like twenty-five of my old friends, most of whom had participated in none of the homecoming events, were gathered.  We reminisced about old times, remembered the dead, reconnected, and, ultimately, parted.

And I felt much, much better.

Above:  Old Dominion Dormitory, universally known as O. D.  Dorm.  Not that anybody OD'd there, to my knowledge.  Though a young woman of my acquaintance, in an act of vengeance upon the male sex, one evening did pass from room to room, giving everybody on my hall a case of the crabs.  Luckily, I out of town that day.



Frank Böhmert said...

Well that's what I call a good posting, sir. It wakes memories.

The first time I visited my old high school was with my then twelve year old eldest son who wanted to sign in there. I was astonished of the renovations the hundred years old building had gone through. Yes, the times are a'changing. But sometimes in a good way. It was much lighter, much more colorful and the kids looked much happier than in the 1970ies ...

Best wishes,
Frank from Berlin

JJM said...

Nixon still ended up going out through the back gate, though -- I was standing close to it and got shoved aside by the Secret Service.

And the carolling was fun.--Mario R.

Lars said...

What about Guadalajara?

Will Guadalajara do?

Michael Swanwick said...

Mario, I remember that Sally came strolling up, carrying a big handbag and when somebody asked her what was in it, she joked,"A bomb."

Five seconds later, she found a very polite Secret Service agent helping her up from the ground, while another was restoring the contents to her bag.

JJM said...

And that was in the pre-post 9/11 paranoia days ... Poor Sally. Wonder whatever happened to her? I know her married name, but that's where the trail grows cold.