In hindsight the sixties were clearly the decade of my most dramatic and far reaching spiritual, political and social changes. I went from being the “best little boy in the world” in 1960, a devout virginal Catholic altar boy living on a bucolic rural Indiana farm to a card carrying member of the Democratic Socialist Party, a connoisseur of good LSD, a practicing homosexual (yes, I was still “practicing” at getting it right in 1969) and a budding Dead Head intent on avoiding a trip to Vietnam.
In retrospect I guess I was lucky my head didn’t explode. My hair went from a buzz cut with just a swipe of Brylcream to a shoulder length mass of reddish brown curls. My world in 1960 had great order, comfort and certainty that was only beginning to have cracks in it due no doubt to my budding sexuality, which seemed to be very much out of step with other boys my age. There was a God in heaven and all would be taken care of in the end. Well that worldview had certainly had gone out the window by 1969.
From 1960 to 1965 the event that sticks out most was that fall November day in 1963 and the Kennedy assassination. I clearly recall the day and the event. We were let out early from class that day. I was attending a Catholic High School in Michigan City, a nearly thirty mile one-way daily ride back and forth that my parents, at great economic sacrifice, felt was necessary I suppose to keep me out of the clutches of the Protestant heathens in the local public schools. The day of Kennedy’ s assassination resulted in having to spend a few lonely and frightening hours in the Michigan City Public Library before I could catch the bus home. It was not a school bus but a greyhound bus-type of Transit Company that went within a mile of my home. I would be left off where our country road met the highway and one of my parents, usually mom, would pick me up.
The Kennedy assassination was a particularly hard blow to my parents. I mean on some level I think they thought his death was a conspiracy since an Irish Catholic in the White House really was an insult to many who had a different version of social order and that could not be tolerated. We did have a T.V. and were of course glued to it for days, so much for the Pope coming over to take on the reins of the U.S. government.
The most significant event of the decade for me personally though was in March of 1965 when my family sold our small Indiana farm and moved to another farm northwest of Chicago just outside of a small town called Woodstock. It was this move that facilitated many of the most impacting events in my life. Many of which I have written about or at least alluded to for this Story Telling Group.
It was this transplantation that would result in my first sex with another man one Good Friday afternoon in 1967 in the biology lab of the Catholic High School I was attending, the beginning of an affair that would last into the early 1970’s. It was also while attending this high school that I encountered the truly radical Holy Cross nun who would forever change my political and worldview and to whom I am eternally indebted. A decade later I met Harry Hay who was always admonishing me to look carefully at my most dearly held “unexamined assumptions”, but it was this little nun who really got me doing that in very life changing ways starting in 1966. She was my muse for sure encouraging me to “not trust leaders or put my money into parking meters” to badly quote Bob Dylan.
The move to Illinois also meant that I would attend the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and though this college was no Berkeley it was still much more progressive than many of the public Universities in Indiana. There I fell in with the Democratic Socialist Party leader Michael Harrington, the renowned author of Poverty in America, and became the dyed-in-the-wool socialist I remain today, only now with more of a small “s”.
It was in 1968 that I moved out of the dorm, discovered LSD and met a bunch of hippies with whom I lived collectively in a variety of settings for years to come including a relocation to Denver. They were the dastardly influence of course that introduced me to the music of the Grateful Dead.
And in addition to launching my sexual life as the big homo that I am the sixties probably much more importantly provided me with a strong foundation for becoming the out proud queer man dedicated to furthering the Homosexual Agenda that I became. I owe this strong foundation in no small part to my loving parents, a great civics teacher, and a philandering old socialist and not least of all my first lover a man 20 plus years my senior. The ensuing decades have really just been a building and expansion process on the values and beliefs seared into my soul from 1960-1970. Hopefully they will carry me to a peaceful and content death satisfied that in some small way I have impacted this very transient world of ours for the better.