I was on my way to Stanford from Versailles, and was driving across Arizona. It's difficult to describe how exciting every new mile was. If you draw a line five miles outside of the Missouri border, I had never been outside that area in my life, before this trip. It was September, 1965.
I was in Arizona, about thirty miles from Flagstaff. I had stopped to fill my '60 Ford Falcon with gas, and ask the attendant what the name of that snow-capped mountain was, in the distance. "The San Francisco peaks," he said.
"No Way!" I thought. "This is truly fantastic. It is so clear that you can see the mountain peaks around San Francisco from Arizona!" I snapped a picture with my Brownie Hawkeye camera.
About five miles later, it seemed to grow in size so much that I stopped and clicked off another. And another five miles called for still another photo. Finally, the snow-covered peak began moving to my right, as I approached it. "This isn't San Francisco," I said out loud, to myself. I took the sixth picture of this mountain, which was to my immediate right now. Again I asked somebody what the mountain was. "The San Francisco Mountains," he said.
Then I spread my map out, and there, in plain English, it showed a mountain range called the San Francisco Mountains, north of Flagstaff. So (are you sitting down) it turns out that you CAN'T see San Francisco from Flagstaff.
It would be a) another five years before I realized that "Mairzy Dotes and Dozy Dotes and Little Lamzy Divey" is actually "Mares eat oats and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy," b) another ten years before I realized that that even-numbered interstate highway numbers run east-west and odd-numbered ones north-south, and c) another fifteen years till I learned that pickles are made from cucumbers.
At Stanford, I became friends with my fellow graduate students in nuclear engineering. Actually Stanford didn't want to say they had a degree in nuclear engineering, so they called it the nuclear engineering branch, and the degree said Mechanical Engineering. Later, they stopped having even the nuclear engineering sub-degrees. That makes me a limited edition.
During the year, we often teamed up to do homework together - much as Corky Hall and I had done in high school. We would gather at this wonderful little bar in Menlo Park called the Oasis, just north of the Stanford Campus. It was on El Camino Real (Ray-AL) - a city street which runs all the way from San Jose to San Francisco. This bar & grill was always called "the O," as in "I'll meet you at the O."
They served great hamburgers, beer was probably a quarter, and they had wonderful pinball machines and booths where large groups could sit together. There was even a chalkboard over the urinal of the men's bathroom. Now that's a great idea. It allowed guys to vent their frustrations by writing on the chalkboard instead of carving their messages into the wall.
The first time I went in there, there wasn't any chalk. Somebody had neatly carved "Where's the damn chalk?" into the black slate, with a knife.
Sunday night at Stanford's Memorial Auditorium (dubbed Mem Aud, in the Stanford tradition of first-three-letter-per-word nicknames there) provided cheap movies.
It was almost like a scripted show, with slight variations each week. The balcony was the sole property of the freshman men. Occasionally, freshman women unfortunate enough not to know "the rules" would wander up there. The prescribed response was a chant of "OUT OUT OUT..." until they left. If they sat down, the chant rose in volume until almost every person in the balcony was staring at the girls, chanting and pointing. They always left, sooner or later.
It was a contest of smart-asses, to tell you the truth - in a creative sense. One invariant rule was that a few sex words would be spelled out letter-by-letter, and they were always the Latin technical name for some activity. I never participated in this spelling - I was too busy trying to figure out what the word was, as it unfolded. This was similar to a common cheer at a football game, where the cheerleaders spell out the name of the university.
Another invariant item was that music was played while the auditorium was filling. It was always the same song repeated over and over - a sixties instrumental tune called "The Happy Organ."
There was a cartoon, and it was always "The Roadrunner." As you surely know, this cartoon involves Wylie Coyote trying to catch The Roadrunner. He devises endless plots to catch The Roadrunner, and they always backfire. There may be a dozen or more of these schemes during a cartoon. The response to these schemes was to yell "Don't do it" or "No, no, NO!" or "You'll be sorry," screamed at the top of your lungs. Or if Wylie was getting into trouble, the students began in a whisper, "Oohhh ...". It got louder and louder, then when it was as loud as possible, everybody followed with "SHI-", as loud as possible. Later "I TOLD you," after still another Wylie Coyote failure to capture the Roadrunner.
When the cartoon finally ended, to a healthy round of applause, we waited for the feature to start.
If you are old enough, you may recall a movie called "Mondo Cane," in the sixties. It was just a collection of bizzare practices around the world. Then they made a sequel, which was not nearly as interesting, but I think it was called "Women of the World." It was quite forgettable, except for three things.
First, it showed Israeli women in military training. They were lying on their back, rocking back and forth on their shoulder blades, trying to pass under a string of barbed wire, and their chests would catch on the barbs. Second, as this was occurring, somebody yelled, "Look out for booby traps." As the laughter was dying down from that one, the third occurred. One individual had obviously seen the movie before, because he blew up a balloon ahead of time, and just as the lady soldier got stuck under the barbed wire, he popped the balloon.
Another phrase that surfaced nearly every week was that during a boring moment of a movie, somebody could be counted on to yell in good volume, "IN!" The response to this was to yell back, "OUT!" Half of the students would then yell "IN" and the other half would respond "OUT." After a couple of rounds of this, the pace would be picked up, until somebody would yell "YAHOO," and this would be followed by a self-congratulatory round of applause from all.
"The Misfits" was the last movie made for both Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, and it was shot in black and white. At one point, Clark Gable was showing Marilyn Monroe a new house he was building, and the back door step had not yet been poured. There was about a six inch drop to the ground. In a classic setup if I ever saw one, she jumped down to the ground and said, "Out." Then she jumped up into the house and said, "In." The crowd went absolutely nuts, and of course, broke into their chant.
Often these movies would be underway ten minutes before you could hear a single word of dialogue, because of all the yelling. It was sort of like a presidential press conference, where all the reporters start yelling at once, and through some kind of magic, one of the voices wins out over the others, who drop out. Everybody was trying to yell out their clever bits, but you had to wait for someone to emerge.
One such event occurred during another black-and-white movie called "Billy Budd." This was a classic story about events aboard a multi-masted sailing ship on the high seas, and it was made into an equally classic movie. As the feature got under way, the normal screaming and shouting subsided sooner than normal, and as the last of the opening titles scrolled across the screen, the auditorium was perfectly quiet.
"Where the f---'s Billy Budd?" some guy yelled at the top of his lungs. This brought the single biggest round of laughter I heard at the Sunday Night Movies. Now the really good thing was that almost everybody I knew at Stanford was there that night, for some reason, and we still talk about this famous episode.
The next week, I could not get anybody to go with me. Since I didn't want to miss any good comments, I went alone. The movie was "Sex and the Single Girl," with Natalie Wood. The early evening unfolded as expected, and the feature started.
The beginning of the movie brought even fewer comments than the week before. Finally the credits rolled off, and the movie started. After about three seconds of total silence came a loud, solitary , slow, perfectly enunciated, "Where the f---'s Billy Budd?"
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One of my Stanford roommates was Bill Bolstad. He went to high school in Columbia, Missouri, and had been in a couple of my math classes at MU, but I had hardly known him back then. He is one smart dude.
After I had decided to go to Stanford and been accepted, another senior (Gordon McLaren, or Gordo) I knew slightly called me and said that he and Bill were both going to Stanford, and would I like to get together with them to rent an apartment. Yes, I said, that would be great to already be hooked up with people I knew, in California.
I would describe my good friend Bill as a mischievous genius. He was getting a masters degree in math. Bill was anti-establishment to the maximum degree. He knocked me over again and again with wild stories of his high school days.
Gordon was in medical school and had one of those huge, ugly, upside-down bathtub Nash automobiles - pale green. Gordon and Bill drove it from Missouri to Stanford, where it got 55 on the straights and 65 in Arizona, going downhill, where a highway patrolman was waiting to give Gordo a speeding ticket.
Bill loved it and bought it from Gordon at some point. He painted a big finger on the roof - a message to the aerial highway patrol, I think. They kept pestering him for some reason... .
Early in the school year, Bill bought a motorcycle and drove it home. He had a big black leather jacket for protection in case he went down, and a white helmet. We often bike-pooled to the campus from our East Palo Alto apartment or to the pizza parlor. I held all of our books or the pizza, and he drove.
Near the end of the school year, Bill made a friend named Tom Hearther (HAR-ther), who was in a band called "Lothar and the Hand People," and I think he was temporarily living with us. One day the police came and knocked on the door. "Does Tom Hearther live here?" they inquired. "Sometimes, but he's not here right now." "Would you ask him to call this number when he gets in?" they said, handing me a card. "OK, what's wrong?" I asked. "We just want to ask him some questions."
It turned out that a friend of Tom's (let's call him Jim) stole a motorcycle because it was same model Jim had. At the time, Bill was away and Tom was looking after Bill's bike, which, by coincidence, was also the same model. Jim took some parts and put the main part of the bike in the garage at our place. Fred, the apartment manager, began getting suspicious. Bill realized that Tom was going to get in trouble, because his fingerprints were on the bike also. Tom had helped strip it. So late one night, Tom and Bill loaded the stolen bike into the back seat of the Nash, and drove to the middle of the Dumbarton Bridge, which crosses the San Francisco Bay. They pitched it off.
Tom had some other problems about unpaid traffic tickets. The authorities finally caught him, and gave him choice of jail or joining the army -- Vietnam, for sure. He chose the army.
Hearther had a thing he called a screaming belch. If he did it right next to you, that ear'd be deaf for an hour. A half-mile away was about right.
I have to call time out for a side story:
Bill occasionally relayed the contents of Tom's letters. One night he was on perimeter duty in Vietnam out in the bush. There was a password established for the night. Sometime in the wee hours, he and a fellow guard heard footsteps in the jungle, outside the camp lines. "Give the password!" they demanded. The footsteps ceased, and all was quiet for a moment. Then they started again. "Give the password or we are going to fire!" they yelled again. Movement stopped again for a moment, then continued again. The two soldiers looked at each other, and then each threw three grenades at the sound. No more noise.
They waited through the long night, and in the misty morning, they cautiously went out to investigate. "We blew the sh-- out of a tiger," Tom said in his letter.
Back to Bolstad:
He was working at Lockheed at the time, working on military weapon design. He talked about such things as "maximizing the kill ratio." It was unbelievable. Bill Bolstad! The Peace Guy.
He had bought a small red brick house in Palo Alto, but wasn't quite satisfied with his life. He quit his job, sold his house and belongings, and jumped on his motorcycle. He decided to drive across Canada. So he headed toward New York, and up into our northern neighbor's country. His bike broke down, and he met a girl in Montreal while waiting to fix it. A few days later, they decided to continue across Canada together.
This is where the story paused - for me, it paused from about 1967 to about 1994. Bill Bolstad had simply faded away, like so many other people in one's life, and I always wondered what became of him. Then one day, he called. "Hey, Bob, this is Bill Bolstad. I'm in town, can I come over and visit?" "Sure," I said, "Get over here." He came over and caught me up. The estranged wife of a high school pal of Bill's had shot and killed Bill's friend at the airport in Columbia, Missouri -- his hometown. When he got news of that shooting, he decided to contact old friends he hadn't seen in a long time, including me.
But back to 1967. He and Sylvia (Syl), the girl he met in Canada, had arrived back in San Francisco and were trying to decide what to do. Bill saw an ad from New Zealand offering free airplane tickets, plus a sum of money, to come to New Zealand and teach. The catch was that for Sylvia's ticket to be paid for, they had to be married. No problem. They got married.
Now I'll fast forward. They went to New Zealand, where Bill taught math in a high school on the northern island. I forget what Syl did - she may have taught also. Bill got his Ph.D. at Waikato University, and upgraded to university teacher, then university professor. He even solved some long-standing, classic math problem that nobody had ever solved before. Bill and Syl had two great kids, who are now both in college - Ben and Rachel. I love their Kiwi accents.
We went to visit them in May of 1994, on our way back from a trip to Australia, where we visited Sharon's sister and brother-in-law. Syl was working with the Maori people, in occupational retraining, and was doing a great job. We had a wonderful time, talking about the old days, and catching up on more new stuff. They took us out to their weekend home in Ohope (o-HO-pay, or o-HO-peh). He still has his cross-Canada motorcycle, parked in his garage.
I was delighted to find that one of their favorite shows was "The Simpsons." I got a video of each person participating (well, not Ben, he wouldn't be caught dead doing this) doing his or her own version of Homer's "Dohp!"
They also had a cat that Bill had trained to jump through a hoop, from one bar stool to another, to get a treat. However, as Bill says, "Who trained who?"
When Bill Bolstad, Gordon McLaren and I had just moved into our apartment on Cooley Drive in western East Palo Alto, to go to Stanford, a handful of little kids appeared at the screen door and put their noses onto the screen - watching us. "Do you guys wanna come in?" I asked. "OK," a cute little girl said. They marched in and sat down on our couch, kicking their feet - which hung down but didn't reach the floor. "ThchokltMikeusetolivebuthemovdovrthrndulvhernowhuh?" said the talkative girl. We were stumped. "What?" we asked her.
"ThchokltMikeusetolivebuthemovdovrthrndulvhernowhuh?" she repeated, even faster this time. We made her say it again - the third time now, standing, her hands on her hips like "where have you been the last ten years?" We finally pieced it out. The question was: "The chocolate Mike used to live here, but he moved over there and you live here now, huh?" OK, we had translated it. Now we needed the code.
We soon found out that in our apartment complex there were two guys named Mike - an African medical student, Mike Achebe, and a Caucasian Mike - Mike Johnson, who was a brand new father. The African Mike just moved out of the apartment we now occupied. To our new friend, they were the chocolate Mike and the white Mike. Sorry we're so slow, little girl, we just can't keep up with you.
In the next months, we met the parents of the kids and we all became friends. We'd invite the little tykes in and offer them Fig Newtons. Only they'd say, "Can we have a Big Newcun?" "OK," we'd say, "but you have to tell us a story." So they'd make up some goofy story and get their Big Newcuns.
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When I was small, Grandma and Grandpa Hilty made a vacation trip to California to visit Uncle Calvin and Aunt Arline. We heard that there had been an earthquake while they were in California, and I was in awe. How can the earth actually shake? It's too big. I remember the liver spots on Grandma's hands, and thought the earthquake had caused them.
When I knew I was going to move to California, a goal at the top of my list was to feel an earthquake. I just had to find out what it was like - similar to the prison student of Uncle Pete's, who lived his life to satisfy his curiosity. So I made the move, met my roommates, moved into our apartment and enrolled at Stanford. The first or second day of classes, I was eating lunch in a cafeteria on University Avenue, between our new home and the campus. I was reading the San Francisco Chronicle, and there it was on page two - MISSOURI EARTHQUAKE! I could not believe my eyes. Along the New Madrid fault. Dangit!
Of course, since that time, there have been about a half-dozen good ones every year. I think of them like a roller coaster, each time wondering what it'll be like. Sometimes you can feel them coming down the street, like a rumbling monster truck. Sometimes, if you're outside, you can actually see the waves move. Only it's asphalt and earth, not water. I missed the big one during the '89 World Series, because I was on a business trip to Chicago. But cousin Jim Hilty, was piloting a tourism helicopter over the Bay Bridge when some of the passengers noticed things collapsing down below.
As we studied together in the Oasis, my intense dedication got me a new nickname. While I was concentrating on solving a problem, one of the other guys would solve it, and explain it to all of us - all that were listening, that is. Then they'd all write down their individual solutions to hand in, and move on to the next problem. "I've got it, I've got it," I'd say, ready to explain how to solve the previous, already-solved problem. They'd all laugh and say, "We already got that one. We're working on the next one!"
Time out for some background. This was the year that the first television "Batman" show arrived. And it was on both Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Maybe you remember one campy line which happened repeatedly, where Robin makes some trivial discovery, and Batman would boost his ego with, "You've done it again, Robin." Finally, my friend, fellow student, drinking buddy and future business partner, Bill Petrick started saying to me, "You've done it again, Robin." That was great stuff, so everybody started calling me Robin. Then our Italian friend from Philadelphia, Don Giorgione, became "Batman," or usually just "Bat." Then blond-headed Don Wehe somehow became "The Commissioner." That was all the nicknames.
Bill started calling me Robin all the time. As we began to meet new people at parties in his apartment complex, Bill would introduce me to all his new friends as "Robin," not Bob. And to this day, there are about a dozen people in California who know me as "Robin." One time Bill was talking about me to one of our friends, and he called me Bob Lutman. "Who's that?" the person asked, having absolutely no idea. "You know - Robin," Bill said. "How come you called him Bob?" Bill and his wife Sharon call me Robin, or Rob, except when my wife Sharon is around. Then they aren't sure whether to call me Robin or Bob, because my Sharon always calls me Bob. I tell them to call me Robin because it sounds more normal, from them.
I had read an essay, written by a prison student of Uncle Peter Hilty's, in which this guy reviewed his life. It was based almost entirely on satisfying his curiosity. I believe he was in prison for armed robbery, so I'd say he got a little carried away. He described this elaborate scheme he designed and implemented to find out whether marijuana was addictive or not - somewhere down in Mexico. Up until I read his paper, I would never have touched the stuff in a million years. I decided, based on the writings of a convicted felon, that smoking a little marijuana wasn't going to be any big deal, and was worth a try.
So when roommate Bill Bolstad suggested that we spend our Easter break from Stanford by driving down the coast, and buying some Tijuana marijuana, that sounded like my chance. I had never been to Mexico, and besides, Batman was going down there too, for spring break. So we loaded our suitcases, scraped together about $100 and headed out in my '60 Ford Falcon, with our gasoline credit cards.
We drove partly down Highway 101 and partly down Highway 1, until we came to La Jolla (Luh-HOY-uh). There we flopped down on the beautiful warm beach with a couple of books. It was not too long before people were swimming in toward shore like crazy and yelling. We figured out that they were saying, "Whale! Whale!" And sure enough a whale had come into the small cove, and was passing through. It was my first whale, and unknown to me at the time, it would be the high point of the trip. After a half-hour or so, we got back in the car, and continued on to a motel, on the American side of the Mexican border - probably in south San Diego. We checked in, left all our money except for $30 or $40, and waited till dark. Then we drove down to make our big score. I'll never forget how the wonderful American pavement dropped down four inches to dirt and gravel, about a tenth of an inch over the border.
We drove into Tijuana, and parked the car near the Agua Caliente thoroughbred race track, got out, and headed for the main street. We started ambling up one side of the street, which looked like it was about ten blocks long. I'd say about three hundred guys asked us if we wanted a woman. We said, "No, but do you know where we can buy some marijuana?" "Ooh, no, senor. Do you want to buy feelthy peectures?" "No," and we kept walking.
We made it all the way up the ten blocks, and back down about eight, when we gave up. There was supposed to be marijuana all over the place. While we were standing there, a man who had been leaning against a building called us. "What?" we said. "What are you looking for?" he asked. "We're trying to buy some marijuana, but we can't find any," we told him. "I can get you some. Six cigarettes for five dollars. OK?" We couldn't believe our luck. "OK, yes, sure!" "You walk down that side street over there, and wait for me in the bar a few doors down. I'll make the cigarettes and meet you there," he instructed. "OK." We were so excited.
We walked down the alley and into the bar. I clicked my worrying up a notch. "Should we take it across to our motel room, and smoke it there? What if we get caught at the border? We might go to prison. Where would we smoke it in Mexico? Out on some lonely road? What if it makes us go nuts? Anything could happen. I can't relax down here." "What a cool bar," I said to Bill. We ordered a couple of beers, sat at the bar, and waited. It seemed like forever, but finally our connection came in the front door and approached us. "I'll be back in about ten minutes," he said. Where the heck had he been? "Have another beer." He left. "What the heck is going on?" we said to each other. Bill ordered another beer. About ten minutes later, the guy walked in, and said, "Come to the restroom." We followed him in. He pulled out a rolled-up handkerchief, opened it up and showed us six hand-rolled cigarettes. "Where's the money?" he said. Bill gave him the five bucks, and said, "Wait five minutes before you leave." Then he left.
Bill put our package in the pocket of his jacket. We went back to the bar and Bill finished his beer. "This is it," I thought. "Cross the border, or do it down here?" "Let's go back to the car," Bill said. And we left the bar, walked back to the main street and headed towards the race track. From behind us, about a million miles away, a voice said, "Hey you." I turned around and saw a little round man about six blocks away, and I relaxed, knowing he could not possibly be yelling at us from so far away. Besides, he wasn't excited or anything - he was just strolling in our direction. "Whew," I thought and we kept walking. "Hey you," I heard again. I turned around and again, the same man was just ambling towards us. "Who, us?" I yelled at him. "Wait a minute," he yelled back.
We looked at each other, and decided to wait - being naive college students and all. It took him a couple of minutes to get to us, and I gulped when I saw he was wearing some kind of a khaki uniform and a stinking badge. I was worried that somehow he knew about the marijuana - naah, impossible. "Were you just talking to that taxi driver?" he finally asked. "No," I said, relieved. He obviously was looking for somebody else, because we weren't talking to any taxi driver. "Are you sure?" he said, in his slow Mexican drawl. "Yes. We weren't talking to any taxi driver," I squeaked. "You weren't talking to a man back there?" he said. I got a little more nervous. "We were talking to a man, but he wasn't a taxi driver," I said. "Did you buy some marijuana from him?" he asked. My world started sinking. "Are you American drug dealers?" he asked. "No, we're college students, on our Easter break," I said, in my new high-pitched voice. "What do you have in the pocket of your jacket?" he asked me. "Nothing," I said, and turned my jacket pockets inside out. "How about you?" he said to Bill. Bill just stood there. "Turn around," he said to Bill.
He patted his jacket pocket, reached in and took out our package. He opened it and inhaled deeply. "Ooh, mar-uh-hoo-ah-nah!" he slowly enunciated. I grabbed the column holding up the storefront where we had stopped, so my knees would stop shaking. "You een beeg trobble," he said in those now-famous words. "Five years in jail and twenty thousand dollar fine." Oh crap. I tightened my grip on the support post. "Wait here for the paddy wagon," he said, and all was silent, except for the roar of my heart pounding. "Just send my mai-ail to the Tijuana jail," I sang to myself, imagining my phone call to Mom and Dad. "Two years in jail and ten thousand dollar fine - minimum!" he said. Wait a minute, why'd it change? Maybe he was just trying to scare us. I wondered what the penalty was actually going to be. A paddy wagon drove by, slowed up and stopped in front of us. I started to walk towards it and our officer held his hand up to me, but didn't say anything. I stopped. The two policemen exchanged neutral glances. The paddy wagon drove on. "Wasn't that him?" I asked - bewildered. "No," he said, simply, and we waited some more. "Drug dealers get a year in jail and a thousand dollars fine," he said.
"Now wait a minute, what's going on here?" I thought. He then said, "How much money do you have with you?" I thought quickly and said, "I have about twenty-five and he has about five." Then in a desperate attempt to grab the cliff with my fingernails, I took the long shot of the century - "That should be enough, shouldn't it?" He thought I was offering him a bribe - which is what he had been waiting for. "OK, let me see your wallets." We handed them over. He looked inside, took out all except for a couple of bucks, and said, "I'll let you go, but I must keep the marijuana, and you have to leave Tijuana immediately." We were ecstatic, extremely grateful to him. "Yes sir, yes sir," we offered, sticking our wallets back in our pockets. "Go on," he said, and we scrammed. Man, were we lucky. We could have got a mean cop, and he could have sent us to jail anyway.
We all but ran back to the wonderful Falcon, jumped in, and headed for the border again. "That was close," I said, feeling that I had just escaped the confines of hell itself. We were quiet as we crossed the border. I began to wonder aloud, "How do you think he knew about that marijuana?" Then, because we were out of our panic, we had time to figure out the obvious - the officer and the taxi driver were in it together from the beginning. They were probably cousins. I got more and more steamed. Haven't been back to Mexico since.
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My roommate Gordon and I were invited to the big Spring Fling at exclusive, all-women Mills College in Oakland. There was to be an afternoon picnic on the campus, followed by a big cruise on the San Francisco Bay. The boat was to leave at 9 PM. I was dating a girl named Carol, who by coincidence, was from Mexico, Missouri. I had met her at a party at my friend Bill Petrick's house. She had the most intense blue eyes, and looked right at me when we talked. I always like that. Bill shared a house with three other guys at this time, and they had lots of parties.
I had Carol fix up Gordon McLaren, my roommate, with a friend of hers. Gordon was in medical school, and had to cut up a cadaver or something, so he couldn't come up until after the picnic. So I drove my Falcon and he drove his Nash Bathtub. The picnic was pleasant. Carol and I sat on a blanket and munched on the picnic goodies, enjoying the warm afternoon. We were to meet everybody at two adjoining motel rooms on Jack London Square, where the big boat was docked.
We were a little worried about whether Carol would be able to drink on the boat. I was 21 - she wasn't. So I bought a bottle of something on the way to the motel - gin I think. The motel suite was noisy and boisterous, and we found some cups, ice and mixer, and mixed ourselves a couple of drinks. Almost immediately, somebody said, "Twenty-five minutes till the boat leaves." So we gulped our drinks and fixed two more, then two more. Then we polished off the bottle. I was SO dizzy.
We made our way to the dock, went up the gangplank, into the bar, and found that it was open bar - anybody could buy a drink. They weren't checking ID's. Dangit. I bought us each a drink, and we went up on top, so we could look up at the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate, when we passed under them. Suddenly Carol said, "I don't feel so good. I'm goin' downstairs to the lady's room." "OK," I said, not feeling so good myself. I felt like throwing up, so I knew from past experience (sorry) that I had to get horizontal, and fast.
For seating, the deck had about ten long bench seats - kind of like church pews. I made my way to the middle of the middle one and got myself down. I was feeling terrible. It was already dark, and the boat hadn't left the dock yet, but I felt the engines running. Suddenly I heaved. I leaned out away from the bench, threw up all over the deck, and quickly retracted my head to the fetal position I was originally in. Kind of like a turtle poking his neck out to get a fly, then withdrawing it back into its shell. I was in misery - my drunken hell. I wished I was, well, I don't know what I wished. I guess I wished I wasn't sick.
"Baaaaarff," I said, for the third time.
Couples began to stroll up onto the deck, as we were approaching the Bay Bridge. "Oh, honey, look at the lights on the bridge. Aren't they - Hey, what's that guy doing?" "Baaaarf." "Oh, gross, let's get outa here."
"Jane, come over here. Let's sit down and watch the bridges." "What's this on the floor? Ooh, that guy is throwing up all over it. Yuck." And on and on.
Gordon came up to me one time and said, "Carol said to tell you that she's sick from the alcohol, and she's gonna stay down there, but she's OK. OK?" "Baaaarrf." "I'll tell her you are OK too, OK?" "Baaarf."
Two hours later, we came back to dock, and I knew I could not walk. I started deep-breathing, but that didn't help my dizziness. I'd raise my head about four inches, trying to sit up, but have to go right back down. We had docked and everybody was leaving the boat. "Hey, Bob, we gotta go." That was Gordon. I couldn't get up. I forced myself - getting up very, very slowly, and I finally got upright. I grabbed the front of the bench seat and slowly stood up. I wanted to die.
"God," I lied, "If you just get me through this, I promise to never do it again." I remember driving home, with the window down and my head sticking out in the air, like a dog - with Gordon driving right beside me in his big green Nash. Wouldn't Mom be proud?
I had visited Mom and Dad in Versailles after my Stanford Masters Degree Ceremony, it was late June 1966, and I was headed back home in the Bay Area, where I had a job at General Electric waiting for me in San Jose.
By coincidence, I had dated a girl in my last couple of months at Stanford who was from Mexico, Missouri. She was attending Mills College - a women's school in Oakland, California. She thought I spent too much time planning and not enough time being spontaneous, and in particular she thought I used maps way too much.
So as I left Kansas City, I thought, "OK, Carol, maybe you're right." How could I go wrong driving straight across Kansas? I soon came to the Kansas Turnpike, got my ticket and headed out. I resisted the urge to pull out my map as I approached Topeka. "Relax, relax," I heard Carol say to me. And so I relaxed. A straight shot across Kansas. How could you go wrong by staying on the Kansas Turnpike? Where else was it gonna go besides straight across Kansas? A couple of hours later I saw a sign that said, "Wichita 29 miles," which I knew was down by Oklahoma. Excuse me?
It took me all day to recover, and I didn't get into Boulder until about 2 AM. I was going to spend the night there, visiting one of my old MU roommates and classmates, Randy Knapp, who was working on a Ph.D. at the University of Colorado.
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