Monday, June 18, 2007

Yellow Springs

Curious article within the last day or two about Antioch College of the innovators in free education ... curious how free can means both cheap and liberated, even though the cheap nowadays enslaves us. The "free" of Antioch was the free of the spirit. The New York Times article will be buried in their archive shortly, but you can read the statement of the Board here.

Antioch has run its course, and they have decided to suspend the undergraduate program at the end of AY 2007-08 ... AY being academic year ... because they are getting too few undergrads to be economically viable. Antioch, frankly, betrayed its heritage with a ludicrous and infamous sexual harrassment policy in the 90s in which, by report, they mandated that consensual partners were required to seek permission for each separate step on the way to consummation ... may I caress you now ... may I now move to slip my fingers under the waistband of your boxers ... I'm not making this up, I am only changing the identity of the undergarments in question.

I visited Antioch in Yellow Springs, Ohio, in the summer of 1973. I lived in Windsor, Ontario, at the time ... I was an earnest "progressive" proselytizing simulataneously among the straight leftoids and a bunch of my gay party brothers for a progressive gay movement. I am being a little snide, I guess, but I learned a lot in Windsor, and the one thing I have done in my life that definitely changed the world was my involvement in gay liberation in the 70s.

But back to Antioch, two high school friends of mine were there. I decided that summer to set out for Winnipeg on my bicycle. I got as far as Sudbury, via the Bruce Peninsula, and realized that I had bitten off a little more than I could chew (I cannot write this without making mention of the crazy dude I met on the ferry from Bruce Peninsula to Manitoulin Island whose face is burned in my mind even if I do not remember his name ... the face, after all, is essential and the name a mere passing icon ... and with whom I spent a passionless night in a tent on the far end of that Bruce Pensinsula/Manitoulin Island ferry ... older than I preferred at the time, but I have never forgotten him). So at Sudbury I grabbed a train, returned to Toronto and hid out at my then recently ex-girlfriend's house ... Paula ... yes, I was briefly straight, and I truly loved her, but being a fag at heart, it had no chance ... and then I headed south. I got a ticket frm the OPP on the QEW somewhere past Hamilton because I did not want to climb the escarpment ... for those not from Ontario, suffice to say that I cycled on a freeway to avoid a really big hill ... it sounds a lot more ridiculous now than it did in the "innocent" 70s ... time is always innocent at a distance.

I passed through Buffalo, and then through Erie and then to Cleveland ... each of these places an adventure that I must write about some time. But I ended up in Yellow Springs and crashed at the house that one of my friends lived in. We all went off to a anti-war demonstration in Dayton ... I remember a lot of reverberant yelling in some kind of mall downtown. And we returned to Yellow Springs.

A night or two later I managed to find my way to a Dayton gay bar. I am not sure how I got there because my friends were straight and being gay in 1973 was a distinct way to be embarassed among straight leftos. Liberals like to project present attitudes to points in the past, but the reality of the early 70s is that gay guys were an embarassment to the left, especially when we got horny. We were 20, after all.

I met this hippie dude, Aaron, a few years older and a few inches taller than I, with the hair and the twinkling eyes that were standards of the period ... I fell hard for him in some disco bar in Dayton. But he had his eye on some preppy thing, and we ended up all three of us in a car heading back to Yellow Springs. Aaron was rejected by the prep dude and then turned on me for witnessing his failure. In 34 subsequent years of being out of the closet, no moment has been more painful than Aaron yelling at me to get lost. That is my memory of Yellow Springs. Adolescent, frustrated, uncomprehending, incomprehensible, earnest.

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