Sunday, June 14, 2009
Mixing and Mingling
I really wanted to skip this year. Why? It seemed rather jumbled up at first glance. Kind of crazy and surreal. I got divorced for one thing. Too many Sopers and no sense of direction. And what else was happening? Watergate, Jane Fonda in Hanoi, weird stuff- like George Wallace running for President of the United States, and then surviving an assassination attempt as a paraplegic. It was also the last year of freedom before I started working and paying taxes. I had a lot of fun, too.
I was back in Birmingham in the fall of 1972. I was disappointed to find that the good-clean-living jaunt in the country did not last. Back on the Southside,there was no longer a psychedelic shine to everyday life. It seemed easier to go back to drinking beer and joining in with the rest of the gang. I had several buddies back in the 'Ham that I could hang around with. I was trying to finish nursing school but actually I was just going through the motions, determined to just get out. I really enjoyed nursing school in Dothan, but when I came back to Birmingham, the Jefferson State experience was not that pleasant.
I was not sure what I was going to do when I graduated, nor had I given any thought to whether or not I would even enjoy nursing as a profession. One of my instructors was insistent that I should enter the field of psychology, and found a job for me at a local Psychologist's office. I had a trial run to see if I might like it, and I found it rather boring- I did not want to do group therapy with a bunch of neurotic, depressed people. (Rather prophetic, since I ended up doing many, many group therapy sessions later in my career, and in fact participated in many sessions as the neurotic, depressed person) So I just partied on and kept up a brave front.
Birmingham was not utterly depressing at the time. There were things to do and the evolving youth culture was getting a foothold on the Southside.I started learning macrame and continued doing embroidery. I found ways to express some fashion sense beyond just being barefoot and jean clad. (Native Funk and Flash and Handmade Houses are my favorite books about the decorative arts of the time.)I had a lovely apartment with old posters and lots of plants. It was pretty and serene. And there was still lots of great music.
The music of 1972 reflects what I was also doing- experimenting with newly found freedoms and getting more seriously introspective about it all. Stevie Wonder went in the studio and produced Music of My Mind-writing the songs, playing the instruments, doing the arranging and recording. Some of my very favorite albums came out in 1972. I guess you could characterize it as a time of mixing and mingling. Just look at these albums!
I was following a philosophy of living that I later read about in an article on Picasso (no, not comparing myself to his genius). I cannot recall the French phrase for it, but basically it was throwing oneself into the mix, into the scene, into the jaws of life. I did not know any other way to do it.
I have a wonderful iconic photo from that time. It is a picture of some of us after a game of Frisbee, sitting on a wall. The photo was taken by my friend Java Man. There was no identifiable coupling, it was a group portrait a la The Big Chill, and for the next decade the only way I knew to survive and get by was to share food, housing, and transportation with my friends. I am so grateful to the people who shared their shelter, creativity, wisdom and ideas with me. I soaked all of it up like a sponge. You can see the images here that reflect the larger forces that shaped me.
Yes, I was close to the edge!