Pete Twomey '66 and other 1965 residents of Third Floor Nelsenius (a.k.a. "The Penthouse") might have a good laugh remembering one of my first attempts at calligraphy -- this verse from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. It was displayed prominently on the door of my freshman room ... Had to do something to cover up that gaping fist-sized hole left over from the previous year's June revelries ... Ah, but Omar was wise, n'est-ce pas?
I guess my main claim to fame at Upsala was collecting a couple of trophies as Homecoming Parade Float Chairman ("Dumbo the Elephant" and "Man of La Mancha"). Yes ... thanks to you loyal Eta Delta "bros" and you wonderful (foxy!) Thetas -- for a few long weeks I got the chance to experience the creative and administrative authority of ... Pharoah!
I was at Upsala for the latter half of the '60s. Each morning it seemed we awoke to a new and different world ... but always one of tremendous social conflict -- and boundless creativity! Overnight, it seemed, a fearless iconoclasm had gripped the young and bold among our species and The Times -- wo! -- They WERE A-Changin'! Seems like only yesterday Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" erupted defiantly from open North Hall windows, dominating the quad! Chills running up and down our collective spine!
But I cringe now when I recall what I put the distinguished professors of the English and Arts Departments through. How patiently they suffered their "enfants terribles", steering us gently among the foundation stones of civilization. I was stunned (and I admit, a little awed) when at graduation I was named co-recipient of the Upsala Book Award. Academic freedom... that's what it was about -- another lesson...
Come on now, who -- in today's hard-edge, hi-tech world -- ever even seriously considers a liberal arts education? And even back in the '60s, who would have dreamed that a few months after graduation I would be 10,000 miles from Upsala on a remote Pacific island, teaching English in the Peace Corps ... and wondering if I ever could have made the grueling cultural adaptation had I not been a seasoned survivor of my fraternity "hell week"?
And who would have seen me, years later, producing 16mm films in New York and Boston; then moving to northern California to become a songwriter, videotape editor, and founder of several small businesses ... then going on to study anthropology, become a medical writer -- eventually moving to L.A. to try my hand at screenwriting -- then discovering in myself the potential for what would seem for me to be the most unlikely of careers ... Yes; sitting there having prosthetic makeup applied to my face for a bit part as an alien in "STAR TREK", I'm thinking: "Hmmm ... I guess I really HAVE take road "less traveled by" ...
The very first time I visited the Upsala campus, I was a high school senior who'd been accepted to a number of very respectable schools. I was completely amazed: "It's so SMALL." I was shocked to find that the entire Science Department consisted of -- a house! And right next-door: The English Department -- also a house! But it was the Fine Arts Department that really took the cake -- relegated to just the BASEMENT of the Music Department house! I must have said, "Lookout Rutgers, here I come!"
But I didn't go to Rutgers ... Upsala just had a kind of ... charisma. And a student-faculty ratio of 14 to 1. In my time I was witness to the building of the Puder Science Building and the planning and creation of a spacious new Art Department facility. And I watched the aforesaid departments flourish academically -- as well as architecturally!
Not too long before Upsala collapsed as a fiscal entity I, like many I'm sure, made the trek to the campus ... yes; for the first time in over twenty years. Life has afforded me more than my share of mysterious and transcendent experiences, but I must admit I was not really prepared for this one. I reached Upsala as dusk was settling in and I thought I'd just take a quick stroll around the dorms.
To my amazement, an unexpected flood of memories immediately began to burst forth. A deluge! A raging torrent! Overwhelming; literally every square yard of Upsala held a thousand memories it seemed! And they were all tumbling out from their murky, hidden recesses -- superimposed -- in random sequence ...
Mind reeling, I entered the quad ... Oh my God -- was it really possible that that old green paint-spill on the asphalt path had endured through all the years -- while I had been out there growing older? It had already been there when I arrived in 1965! ... But THERE it was. Heh; wasn't that the same spot where Nancy Evelyn Johnson had once spit out a raw egg during freshman hazing?
"Sound-off frosh!" "Hey frosh -- where's your dink?" And over there ... that was where I first met you-know-who ... -- and, over there, that's where she and I -- well; nevermind ... I remembered singing "Wild Mountain Thyme", "Chilly Winds", and "I'll Follow the Sun" at the Greek Sing, right over there -- facing the Froeberg pillars. And those hysterical freshman panty raids! (Exterior of course!) "A-T-Shirt-for-a-bra!" "A-T-Shirt-for-a-bra!" "Haaang on Sloopy; Sloopy hang on" "Hey Jude -- don't be afraid ..." "I -- can't get no satisfaction!" Oh -- and late in December, that FEROCIOUS snowball fight! ... That crystal clear night, singing Christmas carols around a fire, in that big, warm, swaying circle ...
So many faces whirling by ... dizzying ... barely made it back to the car. Later; much later; I wondered what Carl Jung would have made of all this? Collective Unconscious? No! Definitely not what he had had in mind when he hatched his much-misinterpreted concept. But at Upsala we shared so many, many powerful moments in our lives; and we knew the joy of "community". You don't have to be an anthropologist to know that humans function very happily this way! We were all on our way "up" then; primed for the challenges ahead. Now, as we ride the descending portion of that arc, we can ponder more meaningfully, maybe, the miracles of space and time ... Hmmm; thanks again Dr. Einstein.
So, even as I indulge in a host of "clandestine machinations" (!) just to land another small part in some eerie TV show of the '90s, I can still call upon everything I've learned ... especially, of course, about people: about our strengths; our complexities; our limitations ... "Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?"
I wish I knew, Monsieur Gauguin. Oh, I know, like me, you've all done some amazing things, and some dumb things, and lots of ordinary things. Incredibly, I do believe I remember you ALL. But I must tell you, even if the bulldozers should descend tomorrow; your ghosts will always reside there ... there at Upsala. I know ... I've seen them.
My profoundest thanks to Jim Coleman who imbued this site with great authenticity and an open selfless spirit -- and to Pete Twomey who (once more, old friend) inspired me to contribute. Of course, a bit of credit should go to Omar, who somehow understood all along --
Class of '69
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