Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Further Emerging of Loopy Larry

I’ve heard claims that if you remember the ’60, you weren’t there. Balderdash, I was there and I remember the so-called “Decade of Peace and Love”. I remember that the reality is there was little peace and love existing during the period, there were people being assassinated right and left and cities on fire, murder at rock concerts and blood being spilt regularly in a questionable war; peace and love decade my foot. The other myth is this calling those years the ‘sixties in the first place. I guess you can’t call an era a half-something. What is usually represented as the so-called Love Decade began somewhere around 1964 and ran pretty much until 1974. It basically corresponded to the Vietnam War and there was no peace there and no peace here as the chants of the protesters grew ever louder.

And yes, we took part in various protests and marches over the period, probably on everything except Trident and I still can’t figure out if the fuss was about nuclear submarines or chewing gum? I am pretty sue it was against nuclear subs in Britain. My daughter had a hard time wondering why the Hippie van in an episode of "Keeping Up Appearances" was plastered with anti-Trident grafitti. "What did chewing gum ever do to you?" she asked.

Yes, I do remember the Love Decade. The problem I have is remembering exactly when what took place. I have done my best to pinpoint the moments of action in my life, but it is possible that the following narratives will not always be in the proper order. Sorry about that, but you probably won’t notice or won’t care or both anyway.

Someone around he mid-60s credited the poet Allen Ginsberg for creating the term “Flower Power” on January 14, 1967. I would bet the term was floating about before he uttered it. Some strung-out Hippie on the street probably blurted in out one day while watching his girl prance around the posies in her birthday suit. But you can't say some dude in the crowd said it, unless you’re writing Forrest Gump, so you got to credit somebody well known. Then you throw some imaginative gobbledygook around your creation story, like it means no war and no violence, man, it means we aren’t out here protesting; we’re just engaged in peaceful affirmations to raise it from banality to brilliance. It may have been a four-year old trying out sounds who said it first, ever think of that? We’re lucky it didn’t end up as Fun Gun Decade or something. (As an aside, I considered posting a nude photo of Allen Ginsberg, but commonsense prevailed. It was not a pretty sight; who wants to see that?
I wasn’t interested in who said it or when, or that it even existed. My concern was my wife’s situation. Going into mid-January we took her for admittance at the hospital. This was a  step in trying to preserve her pregnancy and save this baby. On the 21st she was doing okay and having no contractions. On the 23 they propped her feet up, but on the 25th there was a bubble on the membrane. She didn’t feel well the next day and at 2:30 AM on January 27 she loss our fourth child. This time it was a girl.

Lois came home on the morning of January 30.

In mid-February, she was driving herself crazy itching when she broke out in hives. The doctor gave her some medicine to relieve her. He felt it was an reaction to aspirin. She had been taking a lot of aspirin since she loss the baby.

This was a time of losses. We had lost our house and now our fourth baby. Our social life had dissolved as well. My conversational buddies had moved on and out of my life. Neither Dave
Claypoole nor Ed were around to discuss life with anymore. All Lois and my social acquaintances were also lost; to madness, I suppose.  Our social world up to then had revolved around Dottie and Jack and their friends. Dottie was my long-time acquaintance from Glenloch and Downingtown, the slightly older girl who was my babysitter once upon a time. Her parents were friends with my parents and after Dottie and Jack married we began spending get togethers with them weekly, sometimes at their place, other times at ours. They lived then on East Neilds Street in West Chester.
We seldom met as two couples for an evening sit-down. It was almost always a party, usually including a sit-down dinner with a half dozen others or more. Dottie was a disastrous cook, she of the 14 toothpicks in one slice of cake, but these soirées brought the Bares and Susan Frank and others into our circle. When the Wall's  family went to pieces, the whole circle broke apart and these various people simply departed our life. Jack has since died, but his life was in tatters I suppose. He was on the Sexual Offender listing and served time in jail for child abuse. I believe some of their children grew up into troubled beings as well, but I have lost touch with that family. Her parents and my parents are gone and the remains of their family has dispelled into the winds of time.
On February 10, 1967, Dottie suffered a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized. It was sad about Dottie.  On February 2, 1968 Dottie was committed to Embreevilre State Hospital, what we called the insane asylum, and that’s the last I ever heard of her.   Don’t quite know what was wrong with her, bur she always seemed to be slightly spaced out and very unsure of herself.  I remember my grandmother telling my mother when she was my babysitter, “There’s something not right with that girl.”

My breakdown at Atlantic had lost me my advancement and for a while I feared it would lose me my job. They thought enough of me not to let me go, but gave me a position as a Parcel Postage Clerk, which I believe was a Level 4. They let me stay at the Level 6 grade I had taken and keep that pay and they promised they would put me in an actual Level 6 when one became available. Meantime, after a few months, they put me back in my old Addressograph position.
And then in October 1966 someone from Personnel called me and asked if I would be interested in a job in Accounts Receivable as a Ledger Clerk. Indeed, I would.

Once we survived the upset of losing the fourth baby, our world began to improve, at least for me it did. Lois had sunk into one of her depressions, hardly unexpected, but she was also becoming paranoid again, this time about her father. He was spying on us, she believed. Her suspicions would grow. Otherwise, life was fairly mundane.
I did not return to Temple in 1966 nor  1967, after dropping out in the first half of 1965 due to finances, I hadn’t been back. On April 29 Lois and I drove to Shillington, Pennsylvania to view the house and environment where John Updike had grown up and placed many of his first writing. I identified with Mr. Updike or I should say I identified with the world he wrote about. He had grown up in Shillington and went to school in Reading. I grew up in Bucktown, a small village near Pottstown. Shilling ton wasn't that far away. As a teen I spend a lot of nights driving up 422 to Reading, sometimes to play miniature golf or bowl, sometimes just to race other car on the highway.

We came from the same general area. He was only 9 years older than I. What he wrote of I was familiar with, the area, the people, the lives of his characters. My own writing was drifting over in imitation of him, but I was a chameleon as a writer. I had written over the years like Evan Hunter, Charles Beaumont, H. P. Lovecraft, Sinclair Lewis and Ernest Hemingway; why not John Updike as well.
Probably there was a good deal of envy for John. After all he came from my territory, but here he was in his mid-twenties what could be called a successful writer. If nothing else, he was a self-sustaining writer, making his living by his words without some day-job stealing his time. He was a staff writer for “The New Yorker” for gracious sake by the time he was in his early twenties his stories and poems were selling to top paying publications. He also went to art school, because he wanted to be a cartoonist! I wanted his life for me.

I turned away from Updike when Couples came out. I had loved Rabbit, Run and The Centaur, and I know Couples got great reviews from the elite critics, but I didn’t like it. For one I couldn’t take the sex seriously. People were saying really ridiculous things to each other that were supposed to be provocative and naughty. I found them silly. Nobody talked like these people during sex.
Secondly, I always suspected he sold out. He was a working, regularly published, well-received writer, but in a sense not a star. Did people get excited by The Poorhouse Fair, by the stories in Pigeon Feathers or The Same Door? Couples seemed to me a way to get attention by flaunting sex like a flag in the face of America. It worked, Updike made the cover of time and the best seller lists and onward and upward.
But I lost my identification with him and I found Couples a boring read.

I think I got very engrossed in another John; Steinbeck. Maybe those people on Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat fit more with the Hippie scene. Actually the first book of Steinbeck’s I read was To a God Unknown and I really liked it. The over on this Dell paperback issue of the novel makes it look more lurid than it was. This looks more like something from the Erskine Caldwell collection. Steinbeck did win the Nobel Prize, something Updike never achieved…or am I just being mean now? I sure as little green onions ain’t ever going to win the Nobel Prize.

Put all that aside, my duel life was emerging into blossom an my name would be known.

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