13 February 2014

"Heroics Travel and College" Part Seven of My Month Long Autobiographical Series - Countdown to 60

Nor Cal champs. That's me holding the game ball.

No one knows what it's like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes...

But my dreams
They aren't as empty
As my conscience seems to be

I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That's never free......

But my dreams
They aren't as empty
As my conscience seems to be

The Who - Behind Blue Eyes

I finally went to Finland in the Summer of 1970.  Dad sent me on my own at age 16 for six weeks. He trusted his boys. A week previous my soccer team flew to Los Angeles where we won the California State Championship. We won in overtime. I scored the winning goal. I was a hero. I was going to Finland on my own. I was a experienced with drugs and alcohol and girls liked me and I had made out and knew it was only a matter of time before I went all the way. Mom’s insanity was no longer a secret and as awful as it still was at least I wasn’t carrying it alone. I had a lot of friends of various description and my grades were good -- not that I cared all that much. I was an unstoppable force of of wonder and splendor. Soaring the lengths and depths of eternal opaque hugging happy perfection.

In Finland I marveled at the deep blues of all the lakes and the deep greens of all the trees. The place was clean the people were polite and quiet and very white and they spoke the same language I’d been hearing at family gatherings all my life except now it was all over. In the streets on trains and in cafes.  I took the train north to meet my paternal grandmother in the small town of Nivala where dad had been born and raised.

I was picked up at the train station by one of dad’s four sisters and her husband. We drove to the house. My grandmother emerged. It was like seeing Abraham Lincoln. Someone I’d heard about all my life and she was real. And she was colorful and funny (perhaps the genetic source for my wonderful sense of humor). I was in awe of this little woman. All five feet no inches of her.

Subsequently I met two more of my aunts and one of my dad’s brothers (the other had moved to California before I was born and was as grand an uncle as anyone ever had). I also met a dozen or so cousins some younger than me others my age and still others adults with children. All told my grandmother had 18 grandchildren. Not a bad haul.

Much of the trip I spent on my own traveling throughout Finland. Never lost. Never lonely. Never afraid. Never anything less than very happy.

The next 12 months were -- in retrospect -- anti climatic but I was too happy with life to notice. The most momentous decision I made was which college I would attend. I picked Chico State because at the time it had one of the four top soccer programs in the state -- I was disinclined to leave California. The other three colleges were USF, UCLA and San Jose State. Two in the Bay Area and one in LA. Not interested. So sight unseen I enrolled in this school four hours north of Berkeley in the relatively small town of Chico. I did not realize that at the time that I was also going to one of the top party schools in the country. A well earned reputation that would only fade after I’d been part of that party scene for a few years.

I arrived in Chico for soccer tryouts and it was over 100 degrees. I was from Berkeley were hot was 75. This was fucking nuts and we were supposed to play soccer in it. But we did and I would sweat gallons but made the team and had a helluva time adjusting to not being the star.

Freshman year in college is freedom. Away from home no one to report to and once the soccer season was over it was like look out. Parties. Girls. Beer. Hanging out with the boys. Really discovering that whole male bonding process and trying to be an equal and showing your tough and macho and a little smart but not too much. There were so many rules to be a guy among guys and I was coming from Berkeley in the Sixties which was a different world and I was having to become a different person but I already thought I was special and better because like I said I was from Berkeley which was special transitive property I was special. An athlete and smarter than anyone and hipper and my better-than-thou didn’t go over well with everyone. Cocky son of a bitch.

I drank too much. Way too. I was too good for this bullshit man.  Classes were a bore. The parties were great my friends just fine but there had to be more. Much. Got grandma’s inheritance and after sophomore year split for Europe. No idea what I was doing. Living in the moment I guess.

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