My beloved wife Katrinka says that when one door closes another door
There's that oft repeated line, "What would you do if you had it to do all over again?" I'm sure I'd just make new mistakes if I didn't repeat the old ones, but if I really didn't make those mistakes then I'd have been stuck where I was at each step of the way. Married to my high school sweetheart, settled down in my home town, and so forth through the decades. Nope - I'll take the failures, embarrassments, humiliations, and rejections which have led to these good days and that is good because there really is no such choice.
My mother said that when I was very young I played alone, concentrated, content - until the second grade when I discovered other little people (of generally normal height for their age) and overnight became a highly social being prone to acting up. For some forgotten, unacceptable behavior I was kicked off the track team at Lily B. Clayton Elementary School in Fort Worth Texas (most famous alum Lee Harvey Oswald), thus changing the course of my life forever.
My 4th grade teacher had me read my poems to the class - no one else - and sing original songs such as the Chile Chile of Chile. But then one day spirited Johnny McConnell (who was half Latino by mom and lived by the railroad track near the school and if Johnny and I had been over on the black side cross the crawdaddy creek his beer guzzling dirty tee shirt dad would yell out, "Ya'll haven't been over there playin with them animals have ya?") - he talked me into singing a parody of Davey Crockett that was passing around with such lines as "and he spit through the crack in the Liberty Bell" with visiting parents standing in back and I was banned from reading after that. A door closed.
I wrote a medley of brief songs on high school life to play - with friend Ward, us on guitars - at the senior high school talent show toward the end of the year and the teacher in charge said I had to change the name and lead line of God Bless Our Charity Clubs to Please Bless our Charity Clubs sung to the tune of God Bless America. (High school sororities and fraternities were not allowed in Texas so they had other names) I said sure and then we sang it the way it was written and all he did was snap at me afterwards - too late to cancel our duo's performance.
I'd earlier in the year though been kicked out of the POSSE (Paschal Organization for the Support of School Enthusiasm), the only male non fraternity, by the Vice Principal who was the POSSE's proud sponsor. At the same time he kicked me off the tennis team ostensibly because I wasn't at school playing tennis but at the country club playing tennis. But really I was sacked because I'd committed the unforgivable offense of quitting the POSSEE the day before with close bud Jim Richardson because we didn't feel comfortable with the boots, cowboy hats, and jockish so forth. It was a "You can't quit you're fired!" situation. My mother was so pissed about the tennis but I was tired of tennis anyway. I'd been going home one or two periods early since the 8th grade to play tennis at Colonial Country Club and the VP knew it as did the tennis coach who had been the pro there. But the VP, whose decision was not appealable, saw me as a dangerous radical to castigate.
He'd also told me the year before I'd have to find another school if I didn't say the pledge to allegiance dutifully with hand on heart every morning standing with my fellow Americans. I had several what I thought of as good sound reasons. Eisenhower had added the "under God" to the pledge back then when I got kicked off the 2nd grade track team - I don't think there was any causal connection there. I said I thought the word "god" stood for something much greater than something a flag was under. Also, shouldn't we then pledge allegiance to God rather than a flag under God? Isn't that worshiping a graven image thus breaking one of the ten commandments so cherished in our Judeau Christian heritage? And if we're going to pledge our allegiance to something national rather than transcendent or immanent or however one views it, how about the constitution or "we the people?" He did not appreciate any of these excellent arguments. Anyway, I deemed graduating and getting out of there more important than a sacrificial protest. I could have appealed to his possible southern loyalty, even though we were "Where the West begins," by pointing out that the pledge recitation was thrust upon us by Yankees to get our youths' minds off the Confederate flag and cause, but I didn't know about that then as I also hadn't yet formulated some of the arguments supposedly presented to the VP.
I didn't want to go to college, was ready to head out hitch-hiking and seek adventure, but mother asked me nicely to please just try a little so I did. I chose little Austin College in nearby Sherman and lasted three quarters of a year before having to stand trial with fellow ne'er-do-well John Jackson before the dorm council. We'd been spoken to about a number of minor offences - John's bicycle ending up in a tree and then my mattress in another as if in retribution, creating petitions - one condemning the Dallas Morning News and another an outraged screed on the unacceptable discovery of dust on a window ledge in the cafeteria. We were blamed for a fire in the dorm that I'd discovered and heroically put out, for sending a gift-wrapped turd to the Wing Dick, disciplinarian of the men's dorm 2nd floor as well as being blamed for his successful midnight kidnapping and loosely bound and blindfolded release in underwear in a nearby woods. Except for the petitions which were within our rights, the only thing they had proof of was that we'd refused to stop throwing a ping pong ball at each other down the quite long hallway during the spring break when only two other people were there, one being the aforementioned Wing Dick who'd demanded we stop throwning that ping pong ball, as it was interfering with his studies. We laughed at him and a week later were found guilty. But they didn't say of what so we insisted that they stipulate the offense and bad attitude wasn't something they could stipulate even though it was a central point of the prosecution so they had to state we were sentenced to two weeks dorm arrest for playing with a ping pong ball in the almost people-less dorm hall during spring break in spite of the Wing Dick's repeated commands to stop. It was embarrassing to see the president of the dorm turning red jumping up and down screaming at us the next day when he found John and me disregarding dorm arrest and freely walking across the campus. We apologized and said we were leaving which nullified the conviction. Another door closed.
A few months later at civil rights camp in Oxford Ohio I was expelled from returning to Mississippi to register voters. The board was split. Robert Moses who'd gotten that whole Freedom Summer movement going wanted me to stay and go back to Mississippi but his wife and others on the board said I had a bad attitude, did crazy things like climb up on the building's roof, make fun of the movement, and kept people up drinking and singing at night. I'd spent a fearful month down there already and was relieved to be outsourced to the much more tolerant Students for a Democratic Society in Ann Arbor and Chicago where back then I felt safer at night on the South Side walking alone than in parts of Mississippi in the daytime.
Had my driver's license taken away in Texas for a drunk driving arrest the prior spring in Jackson, Mississippi, where I was neither drinking nor driving but was guilty of being in front of the civil rights group's office. The poor Texas Highway Patrolman I met with shook his head in belief and was flabbergasted when I told him we were all arrested and beaten up at one time or another - me being a rare exception to the being beaten up, having been born and raised in a related but much less thorny briar patch. He apologized but said he had to take my license away for at least three months. I said, that's okay - give me a few days to prepare and I'll just go to Mexico for that time, that I had a friend who was trying to get me down there with him. Agreed. Wow. Good move.
In 1965 got kicked out of a couple of school approved places where I was staying in Mexico City due to my unsavory friends and habits only to find more suitable housing and then the University of the Americas told me I couldn't come back which Austin College had also made clear and I floated off eventually to the Bay Area and found the most tolerant, demanding, fun, and rewarding bonanza of Zen Center and I continued to occasionally be transferred or rejected from this or that there or with others making me at times hurt, angry, or sad but then hurling me toward new directions where the past would shrink to its proper size and new promise would welcome me with it's open doors.