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Friday, July 24, 2009

FRIENDS


If you've wondered what my friends look like, here is a picture of some. These are the people of my life who figure prominently in who I am. I have known Lucas and Judy through 2/3 of my life. Lucas and I met within a week or two of the day I think of as the beginning of my life. Released from militarist involuntary servitude on Friday, I started College of Charleston on Monday. That weekend was the transition from all that went before to all that went after. I'd completed all obligations, the checklist of requirements I had no choice about from the day I was born until that day, and could start making my own decisions. My first decision was to get educated. I could read and write and do arithmetic, but I wanted understanding, which was lacking.


I was 5 years older than other freshmen. A guy I met first day or second, Howard Stahl, was a jazz lover. I was too. He decided I needed to meet Lucas Carpenter, the school's other jazz lover. Lucas was entering the second half of his second year. I started the January semester. Lucas and I both were listening to be-bop period jazz; Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Duke Ellington. Both of us had been listening to Dylan, who had 3 or more albums by then, 1965. I think Mr Tambourine Man was current. Dick Clark had finally put an end to rock & roll in America by 1960, which had been his goal the whole time of American Bandstand.


When we had a vacuum in the new music here, the Liverpool sound started crossing the ocean. While rock&roll was going undergound, Lucas and I switched over to jazz and folk independently of knowing each other. A lot of people did. Little Richard went to preaching. Chuck Berry went to prison. Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13 yr old cousin. Buddy Holly died. We were left with The Peppermint Twist, which was pretty hot. Bop-a shu-ba, bop-a-bop-a shu-ba. The Beatles and the Stones, Dave Clark 5, Spencer Davis Group, Pink Floyd gave us in America a new energy in rock&roll. It wasn't long before the underground San Francisco sound spread through the country with little to no airplay. When what was called the classic 60s sound was happening, radios were not playing it. Radio sponsors never liked rock&roll. This was the time when we started learning about new music from other people and magazines.

Lucas went to graduate school at Vanderbilt in Nashville, and was drafted out of school. He did time in Vietnam instead of going to Canada. Released from militarist detention, he went to graduate school at Chapel Hill, where he met Judy, who was working on her MA, and from Brooklyn. Both got jobs teaching in Charleston public schools for a year when they finished Chapel Hill. From that time in Charleston, Lucas went to Stoneybrook on Long Island to work on a PhD, where Judy had gone for undergraduate. After the PhD, Lucas worked teaching at a university on Long Island for some years. he wanted back in the South and got on at Oxford College, a part of Emory U of Atlanta, a small school a half hour or so drive East on I-20 from Atlanta. When he arrived, he was given the same office a great uncle of his had when he taught Math there. Lucas has been there ever since.


Judy worked teaching 8th grade for several years until she burned out and switched over to school counselor. Meredith was born while they were on Long Island. When they came South, Meredith was 2. Judy was a conscious mother, protective as a dog over the innocence of her little girl. All the time Meredith lived with them until she moved to the dorm at Emory in Atlanta, she was the first consideration in the front of Judy's mind, day and night. I didn't realize how strong the mother commitment was in Judy until Meredith left the house and Judy relaxed. She relaxed into the Judy I'd missed all those years and didn't know it.


I was visiting them one weekend when Meredith was 3. She was back in her room and we were in the living room watching a video of a Prince concert, Sign of the Times. In a little while Meredith came dancing up the hallway and into the middle of the living room dancing to Prince. In her dance she never made the same move twice, never. It was like watching a flame that never repeats a gesture. She did this for quite a long time, flowing with the music such that she'd become the music. When she'd gone through all physical movements she could make to the music, she started her fingers dancing. She held up her hands and made rhythmic gestures with her fingers, again never repeating a gesture, super conscious of what she was doing. While she was watching her fingers it came to a time like she wasn't controlling it, it was just happening. There was a moment along in that time when I saw in her eyes that this was the first time she'd discovered what her fingers could do. She watched them with fascination, at once controlling them, and not controlling them, seeing the fingers she'd always had could dance for the first time. We were in awe.


Meredith grew up going to public school in Conyers, Georgia. She had the kind of brilliant mind that you might say belongs in a private school where she could get a better education. But she wanted to go to public school. The dads of most of her friends drove pickups. She grew up in a house where her mother and dad both read, dad a professor of English literature, and parents who listened to a wide range of music. And Meredith has a wide range of musical interest. When she was in her early teens we wondered how she would rebel musically. There was no music her parents didn't listen to. So Meredith discovered Enya, who made her parents grind their teeth. We had a great laugh over that.


She is now living in the greater SanFrancisco area, going to U Cal Berkeley, working a PhD in molecular biology. The guy with her in the picture is her feller, Graig. He's at Berkeley working on PhD in something inconceivable in the chemistry department. They were in school together at Emory. I think he's from Chicago. He's another brilliant mind. They are planning to be married in Atlanta October 3, then a honeymoon to Machu Picchu.


Lucas and Judy hired Wayne Andrews to build them a log house a few years ago in the woods across the road from my house. Then they lost all their investments in the "economic downturn," another term for Depression, like landfill is another word for dump. If they hadn't built the house, the money that went into it would have gone away too, so the house is about all that's left of their investments. They still have the house in Conyers and they both work, but both have lost benefits and retirement, which was coming up soon.


Somehow, we've all survived. Last night we were laughing at the ironies that Keith Richards and Mick Jagger are still living, while we were hearing some Stones cds Meredith put on to play. One of my delights in life has been watching Meredith grow up. You never know how a kid is going to come out the other end of the teens tunnel. Meredith has totally blown my mind. I'm glad to see in Graig she has a mate who is good to her. They have similar tempraments, smooth and even. They don't need drama all the time. They have what it takes to be able to study all the time. She has a blog: http://cookinglab.wordpress.com



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