Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I have lingered long over memories of 1970. I guess I can now move on, but reserve the right to remember something else and backtrack if necessary. In an earlier episode I described going to Auburn and getting married. So I am picking up the story line again back in Birmingham in the fall of 1971. Things were beginning to break down on the Southside. I had some friends who I found had unhappily wandered off into areas that repelled me. I did not find their "adventures" appealing, adventurous as I was. The whole scene was already devolving, and I was getting older (ripe old age of 19).

One day we got the bright idea to move to the country. I think the whole youth nation had the same idea- it was probably a survival instinct, and it was highly romanticized by our culture heros. "Goin up the Country" by Canned Heat played at the beginning of Woodstock, and Woodstock itself was a celebration of country life- mud, outdoors, camping out, living off the land, free and easy spirits and all that. People were heading for communes and retreats with the idea that dropping out was the only way to keep your head and your heart intact. Things were very tribal.

We decided to go to a very very rural area of the state. Nicky would teach school and I would go to nursing school. We found a house outside of town- a very small town- and set up housekeeping. I rode a schoolbus to the nearest larger town which was Dothan, and went to school at George Wallace Jr. College at no cost to me. I loved it. My teachers were rather puzzled by my appearance but eventually accepted me and actually gave me a great nursing education. I was a straight A student but I had only one outfit- my same embroidered jeans, now well patched, and a pair of red and blue tennis shoes that I bought for 50 cents. I did have a couple of t-shirts. Birmingham was about 10 years behind the scene, but Dothan was even further behind.

I had no peer group, but that was ok, because I was now married and "settled down". I rode the bus back home each evening, and will never forget the guy who was a Vietnam vet who rode the bus along with about 25 of us. He had a glass eye with a Playboy bunny in the center of it. Gives you an idea of what I mean. One time we invited another young couple over for dinner. When I said something about Bob Dylan the woman said "isn't that the new store over in ....? What can you say?

That year we had the best time with the openess and quiet of the Alabama countryside. We were also 5 miles from the Florida line so we could drive to the state line and eat oysters at a roadside open air oyster bar or head on down to the Gulf. That was nice. We also joined the Columbia Records record club, and got albums in the mail like Aqualung by Jethro Tull and Meddle by Pink Floyd. We got a puppy and named him Shamus for a line in the Pink Floyd album. As I said before, sidetrips from Southside saved my life!

So as the year changed to 1972 and the school year came to an end, so did the country life experiment end. We decided to move back to Birmingham that summer, and went right back to the Southside scene which was now in full tilt boogie mode.

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