Monday, December 31, 2012

As I Remember Those Years excerpt by Kurt K Joyce

This excerpt from As I Remember Those Years by Kurt K Joyce is from an as of yet unfinished story about coming of age in the late 60's.  In this excerpt, the main character, Doug, arrives at college.

The regular format of this blog will return with the first excerpt of the new year, January 7th.


1 - Birth

As I remember those years...

In my youth, growing up, I was safe. Surrounded by friends and family, in my neighborhood in Flatbush, I was safe and secure. Cloistered in an upper middle class, Jewish, liberal community, I was safe, secure and sheltered. Now, seated in the back seat of my family’s Mercury station wagon, all my earthly possessions around me, on I-89 en route to Hancock, a small New England college (my first choice) - - for the first time since age five when I had my tonsils removed, I’m scared?

September, 1968. Saturday. It’s not that I’m going to miss high school all that much - I was only barely on the fringe of the “in-group”. In sports, when sides were chosen for teams, I was always the last one taken. In school plays, I rarely had even one line to say. And of course I didn’t have a date for the senior prom. But I did play alto sax - 1st seat, 1st stand in the school band - which made me at least semi-cool.

College Street. College Hill. The Merc is slowly making its way up the hill. At the top, my life awaits me.

* * * * *

“Hi! I’m Frank. Welcome to Hancock. Name?”

“Douglas Schoenfeld.”

“Glad to meet you, Doug,” shaking my hand while leafing through the papers on his clipboard, checking for my name. “You’re in Rutland, in State campus.” Freshman are housed in both State and East campuses. “That’s - turn left here on Maple, it’s four blocks up - past Faith, Hope and Charity, right turn at Grace. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around campus, Doug.”

“Hi! I’m Shari. Welcome to Hancock. Your name?” Weird deja-vu, followed by a vision of Shari, leading a cheer, waving her pom-poms at the Big Game.

“Hi! I’m Doug Schoenfeld. Nice to meet you, Shari.”

“So nice to meet you, Doug,” shaking my hand while leafing through the papers on her clipboard, checking for my name. “You’re in Rutland, the dorm on the left.” The three dorms in State campus - Rutland, Middlebury, and Burlington - form the letter U, with the open end facing Grace Street. The two smaller, brick buildings flank Burlington, which resembles a plantation house with its three-story pillars guarding the entrance doors. “Room 309. You can pick up your keys at the front desk.”

“Thank you, Shari.” Walking toward Rutland, I hear from behind me a cheerful, “Nice meeting you, Doug.”

“Hi! I’m Doug Schoenfeld. I’m in room 309. I’m really looking forward to being here at Hancock.”

Apparently, my New York sarcasm doesn’t travel across state lines because he replies, “Hi! I’m Kurt. Nice to meet you, Doug,” shaking my hand while leafing through the papers on his clipboard, checking for my name. Fuck, I feel naked, am I the only person on this campus without a clipboard? “Doug, just sign next to your name. Here are your keys. Third floor, on the left, corner room all the way down the hall. And welcome to Hancock.” Had Hancock been invaded by smiling, perky aliens? First thing, I’ll check for a pea pod under my bed.

My room. My new sanctuary. Except for the window overlooking Maple and beyond to “downtown” Hancock (the intersection of Vermont Routes 100 and 125), there’s two of everything: two twin beds, two desks, two desk lamps, two desk chairs, two waste paper baskets, two small bookcases; on either side of the door, hidden behind floor-length curtains, closet alcoves each with a small chest of drawers. One side of the room is the complete mirror image of the other. Okay, Alice, which side of the looking glass for you? Or, I could procrastinate, and put off a decision; laziness has immediate rewards. Therefore, after unloading the car (under my Dad’s strict observation and supervision), and agreeing to meet my parents for dinner at 6:00, I kick off my Adidas, strip off my Hancock College t-shirt, and crash on the nearest of the two beds.

I can’t ignore the persistent knock at my door. “It’s open.” “Hi! Doug?” I nod my head. “I’m John Janus.” Of course, he’s holding a clipboard. “I’m the RA for Rutland. If you have any questions, problems, or just need to talk, I’m in 101. Oh, and we heard from your roommate, Luke Thiboudeaux. Car trouble - he should be arriving tomorrow. I’m glad we’ve met, and welcome to Hancock.” Not knowing or caring what an RA might be, I now at least know my roommate has a name - Luke!?!

* * * * *

Fuck! It’s a few minutes before 6:00. I’d been dreaming that I was on a ferryboat, crossing the calm waters to? Quick. Jeans off. Khaki chinos, a white button-down dress shirt, burgundy cordovan penny loafers - very preppy. I dash down Grace, past Oak and Walnut, to Elm Street. Since my parents are staying overnight at the Inn on Elm Street, we’re eating at the Restaurant in the Tavern in the Inn on Elm Street. That’s actually the name of the restaurant - the Restaurant in the Tavern in the Inn on Elm Street. Really.

The dining area is fashioned as a rustic country inn. Wood beams, wood paneling, wood plank flooring. On the far wall, a stone fireplace. Lighting is provided by electrified hurricane lamps on the walls, and wagon wheel chandeliers overhead with bulbs shaped to look like candles. Heavy, dark wood tables and chairs; straw place mats with mock pewter plates and tankards. I order the roast duck, with baked potato and corn. I have a Coke, ‘though I would have much preferred some beer. Unfortunately, at seventeen, I’m still underage - skipped eighth grade. Which might explain my nephophobia (fear of clouds); chemistry, biology, physics yes but never studied earth science.

During dinner, conversation ranges from the weather in Vermont to the economics of inflation, from a discussion of politics and the Vietnam war to gossip about family and neighbors. Then my Dad issues his pontifical pronouncement. “Your mother and I are very proud of your previous academic achievements.” Have I mentioned that the minimum standards for admission to Hancock are a high school grade average of 93 and standardized test scores (SATs) of 1350? “We, of course, have full confidence in you and expect no less from you here at Hancock; we know you won’t disappoint us. But we also want you to experiment, to broaden your interests, and not be afraid of the new and unknown.” To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before! “Most of all, to enjoy and have fun during these next four years. We have watched as you’ve matured from a child into a fine young adult, and want to tell you how nice it is to have you as our son.” Nice? NICE? Unexpectedly, my Dad hands me an envelope containing cash. My neurotic impulses are assuaged, temporarily.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, back at the ranch - Rutland, third floor, north wing, welcome party ...

Intros are made. “Hey Johnnie, he’s another New Yorker.” “Fuckin’ A!”

Beers are handed out, joints passed around. I am blitzed.

“Marilyn Monroe had to die ‘cause she knew too much about Kennedy’s assassination.”

"What a rip-off. Who are you going to complain to - the priest?”

Three of the guys do a bitchin’ imitation of the Supremes “Stop in the Name of Love.”

“I’m Jewish”

“But she died before his assassination.”

“So go to your express or local rabbi.” “Far out, man!”

Duncan Yo-Yo throws a watermelon out the window to watch it splatter.

“Jayne Mansfield was decapitated.”

“This weed is primo.”

If I only had a brain.

1 comment:

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

Sounds good, nice intro, I wouldn't mind reading further. Kurt, welcome to the writing room.