The theme for these series of blogs is “things that didn’t make it into my book.”
But it’s also a sneaky way to include sections of the book itself. The book’s title is:
Stories from my Life: A Normal Person in an Abnormal Society
It is not exactly a memoir, but a collection of stories divided into thematic collections. Below is the beginning of the first story, Bank of America from the first series, Isla Vista, 1970, followed by a section I hesitantly took out of that story, a section about my dog, Felicita.
I moved back to Isla Vista in January of 1970 to start my first teaching job in the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara.
The College of Creative Studies was the project of English Professor Marvin Mudrick. In grad. school, my closest friends were poets and they had introduced me to Mudrick who was an amateur musician so took an interest in me, a composer, and once invited me to his home for dinner. I don’t remember how it came up, but he asked me where I lived. I was living under a tree at the time and didn’t want to go into details, so I had been evasive. One of my poet friends later told me that Mudrick had assumed from my answer that I was a “kept man.”
The College was set up for students who were composers, creative writers and poets, visual artists, and even some science majors, all capable of doing independent “creative” work as undergraduates. There hadn’t been a job opening: I created the job. I told Mudrick that young composers needed more than a composition lesson one hour each week from a famous composer; they needed to be around other young practicing composers… and I could teach a course for the non-music majors in the College. But my basic job would be to hang out with the young composers.
The summer before while I was working on my friend Ed’s ranch, I had gone back to Southern California to avoid another draft notice and to explore the idea of a job at the College of Creative Studies. I went up to Santa Barbara where I met Dan Lentz who had been hired the year I left UCSB to be the young avant guard composer in the Music Department. He had formed his ensemble with many of my friends. We were at the Student Union having coffee when I got the idea that a letter of recommendation from Dan might be the kind of thing that would impress Mudrick. The conversation went something like this:
– Hey Dan, would you write a recommendation to Mudrick for me?
– You write it; I’ll sign it.
I took a napkin from the table and wrote on it the above conversation and handed it to Dan. He signed it, making sure I could see that he hadn’t read it. I don’t know if it was my “kept man” status, the napkin recommendation, or Fricker’s consent, but I got the job, starting in January; my only successful attempt at getting an academic appointment.
The day I left Princeton, I received my ninth induction order, this time to report in Princeton in early January. It was mid December. I took the envelope and hitch-hiked to Santa Barbara, (with my dog Felicita) rented an apartment in Isla Vista, in the Lemon Tree Apartments, and started teaching in January.
And this is the section I took out, but am glad to show you here.
I mentioned Felicita, my hitchhiking companion. One word: sweetheart. Some of that side of her must have come from her black lab father whom I didn’t know. I did know her maternal grandmother, Thelonius, a large white wooly sheep dog who was full of love and affection. Thelonius’ daughter, Daiquiri, the mother of Felicita, had a black afghan father. Daiquiri was beautiful; black and white; elegant, with a very complex personality that had it’s warm side. She was incredibly fast and with her long hair flowing and playful leaps, she drew all eyes to her wherever she went, especially on the beach. She lived with Ed Horton, my friend, who was also tall and elegant with long flowing black hair; the best French horn player in Santa Barbara. Ed spent winters in Santa Barbara and summers on the family ranch in Colorado where I also spent many summers.
Felicita was born on the ranch early in the summer of 1969 and was old enough by September to take with me to Princeton. It was on this hitchhiking trip that I trained her to lie on my jacket while I was inside. I found a building with a pane glass window close to the front door. I had a red and black checked wool jacket with fleece lining that I put on the ground next to the door and told her to lie down on it. I went inside and watched her through the window. The second she got up I rushed out and told her to lie down again and gave her another treat. It took about two hours that time and another two-hour test-session before I felt she could be trusted to stay on the jacket. I think she liked my smell on the jacket and I liked hers.
I lost her about one month after moving to Santa Barbara. It was outside the office of the College, a place she knew very well. There were bushes outside the door that had rabbits in them. She jumped in after the rabbits and instead of waiting for her to come out and sit on my jacket, I went inside since it was going to be a short visit. I never saw her again. I still feel sadness. She was a real sweetheart. I’ve never had another dog. Maybe I thought there would never be another dog like Felicita. Maybe I felt I didn’t deserve another chance. Loss.