Sur-prahz, Sur-prahz, Sur-prahz! – Or 3 Truths

My career as a high school student was a little spotty. I started out in 9th grade all bright eyed and bushy tailed, striving to make the honor role every day and wishing I had made the cheer leading squad. By 10th grade the 70s were in full swing and, drawn off by the allure of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll my performance took a rather dramatic dive. I started turning on and tuning out and I got rather fat due the emotional stress of a bad break up. My junior year was a total disaster. Somewhere between the end of my junior year and the beginning of my senior year I had an epiphany that maybe I wanted more out of life than to live on a commune baking break and popping out babies and cleaned up my academic act, got on the high honor roll and started applying to colleges.

I did not get into to my first choice but I did get accepted to the University of Miami. No way was I going to a school where people wore bikinis all the time. Not with my fat ass. I decided to take a year off, reapply to better schools (in cooler climates), work to save up money and go to Europe to put those 4 years of high school French to use. Little did I know that no self respecting Parisian will converse in French wis ze ugly Americahn.

To finance the trip I got a job at a plastic bag factory. It was right near my house and it paid really well – $3.65/hr! I took that job a week before I graduated but it was a 6 PM to 6 AM shift, 3 days on and 3 days off at that time. Sometime after graduation they switched to a standard 5 day midnight to 8 AM shift. So – #2 is true. And Bolder – folding plastic bags all night in a hot factory is very memorable. Not a great memory but I will never forget the feel and the smell of having plastic dust up my nose 8 to 12 hours a day.

In June or July of 1974 I boarded a plane headed for Paris. I had no idea what I was doing. Far be it from me to read books or actually learn something about traveling before I took off. My worried Mom stepped up and found a local person who had a daughter living in Paris who needed a roommate so arrangements were made for me to go live with her. We had nothing in common and she didn’t really want to spend time with me – she just needed someone to share the rent. Fortunately, on the plane on the way over I met a guy from Germany. While in Paris he wrote to me and asked if I wanted to come hang out with him so a month after arriving I took off to spend time living on a houseboat on the Lahn River.

While I was there an American girl named Bernie showed up and we decided to hitchhike to Amsterdam. We stayed at a Youth Hostel that would give you free board if you went down to the train station every day and passed out leaflets directing young tourists to the hostel. One day I got picked up by the police who didn’t arrest me but they did frighten me and warned me not to solicit at the train station ever again. So #1 is false and Dori and Greyhound both get the honor of the right guess for the wrong reason. I didn’t actually get arrested and I dare say that passing out leaflets for a Youth Hostel isn’t really more sexy than passing out political leaflets.

Since you were both equally right and wrong I will happily make you each a mix CD with whatever style of music floats your boats and makes your workouts more pleasurable, assuming you are part of the iPod generation. If you would rather listen to a book or some Fresh Air let me know because I can accommodate that request as well.

I finally went home in November of 1974 partly because I was out of money but mostly because 21st CenturySister had been in a rear end accident and was suffering a ruptured disk and she wanted me home. At first I resisted the idea of going come because I had started to fancy the idea of staying overseas, blowing off college and becoming an ex-pat (Nixon had just been booted out of office) but then I felt loved and needed and off I headed to airport. Having arrived at the train station a little late I ran on to a train going the opposite direction I needed to go, missed my flight and was delayed a day but I did get home. By the way – back in those days if you missed your plane they just put you on one the next day – no charge even for a cheap ticket.

By then I had applied and been accepted to a couple of colleges including my first choice which had given me deferred admissions to start in February of 1975. Off I went and because I was SO OLD (all of 20) I barreled through college in 3 and half years and got accepted to graduate school at UC Berkeley.

During my first year I met a man who really, really liked me. He was good looking and fun and I was lonely and stressed. We dated for 8 months which were characterized almost exclusively by going out to a local bar, getting pie eyed and shooting pool. I was a pretty decent shot in between the second and fourth Vodka and Tonics. The man was a full on drunk and there was a fair amount of abuse in that relationship but my Mom had been an alcoholic so it all seemed pretty normal to me. When he wasn’t drunk he was fun so eight months after meeting we started cohabiting and the following summer we got married.

By then the partying had taken a huge toll and in addition to that I wasn’t that enamored of the studies I was doing. A PhD program in science is somewhat like a marathon or an IM in that you really need to want it bad to finish and by that point I really didn’t care much about it. If I had had my wits about me I would have done what another guy in my lab did and switched to exercise physiology but alas, I was a total mess. My self esteem was in the gutter and I didn’t really know who I was. I quit graduate school. So #3 is sad but true.

Not to worry, though. That not so great marriage resulted in me having 3 very fine children who I adore so I believe that the trajectory my life took was perfect. The ex has been sober for almost 10 years now which is a very a good thing and my kids are perfect. Herky jerky as my life has been it seems to be working out just fine.

Thanks for playing!

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5 Responses to Sur-prahz, Sur-prahz, Sur-prahz! – Or 3 Truths

  1. Mother of Chaos says:

    Wow. That is all.

  2. Stillwater Heron says:

    I love your story!One of the tings I love best about the whole blogging thing is the sharing that goes on between us.We all dance on common ground…

  3. Vickie says:


  4. Laurie says:

    Great story, thank you for sharing. I love when people talk about how they got to the place they are in. Great job making this game so interesting!

  5. Twenty first Century Sister says:

    Anna Quindlan, who is one of my all time favorite authors, said ( paraphrased) The really hard thing in life is to stop trying to be who we think we should be and get on with the business of becoming who we are!Something I really didn’t remember was that you came home for me- I am honored and that makes me feel loved!

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