07 November 2010


If I had gone to Berkeley in my first year, my experience might have been different.  When I first went to UCLA, I was a worshipper at the shrine of science.  Berkeley was my second year and I was by then beginning to be self-confident, and interested in the idea of student life.

Or perhaps second-year University students are always like that.  The term 'sophomoric' is no accident.

At UCLA I had lived in a student residence; at Berkeley, four of us from Oroville - David Bennum, Lanny Cummins, I - and someone else - Lee Gunderson?? - lived together in a set of rooms in a rooming house - run by Mrs Logy - Logey?? - and I feel a retroactive sense of apology to her for the experiences we put her to.  I suspect she ran the rooming house because she had to have the income to survive; it cannot have been in any sense a positive experience for her.

Oh, not that we were drunkenly staggering through the place, vomiting on the furniture, anything of the sort.  We drank what would, today, seem astonishingly little.  Well, it was, after all, illegal!  We were, that year (September, 1961 - May, 1962) 19 years old.  In California, at the time, you had to be 21 in order to drink legally.

What we drank was wine.  How did we get it?  I don't really recall.  Perhaps David had some contacts.  We also were pipe smokers - this was, then, the thing for University students to do (I had a few really lovely smoking pipes - spent too much money on them and on tobacco) - and we bought a 'hookah' - a water pipe - with, I think, four pipes.  We put wine into it and smoked through it.

Then we tried to drink the wine :-)

I felt quite sorry for Lanny.  Lanny had, I believe, been brought up a serious Jehovah's Witness.  Our behaviour - that of the rest of us - was loud, foul-mouthed, inconsiderate.  I think it was quite upsetting to Lanny.

Lanny's life ended tragically - at least, it ended in a way that is distressing for me to contemplate.  Jehovah's Witnesses are pacifists - or, rather, they will not serve in the military of governments, because Jehovah's Kingdom is the government they serve.  I do not know anything of how it came to be - nor, in fact, have I any independent verification - but I was told, many years ago, that Lanny became an officer, went to VietNam, and was killed there.

I think this must represent a major turn-around in his religious thinking.  I pray daily for his soul.

Two things happened during that year at Berkeley that had significant effects on my later life.

The first had to do with my studies.  I was majoring in astronomy.  I hoped, eventually, to do my PhD in astronomy.  As I said in an earlier post about UCLA, a PhD programme at the University of California at the time required either three semesters of one foreign language, or two semesters each of two.  I had done second semester French at UCLA (having been given credit for the first semester because of my four years of high school French).  I started Russian there - or perhaps I took the two semesters of Russian that first year.  I don't remember.

But at Berkeley I took Spanish.  What was in my mind at the time, I do not know.  I think I probably just was following up the fascination with language that had been mine as long as I can remember.  The beginnings of what eventually led me into linguistics can be seen here.

Something of far greater significance happened to me in, I think, March of 1962.  I met Edna.

1 comment:

Kathleen Siciliano said...

Wow! How cool to finally read about how you and mom met. And to find out you drank wine after using it to smoke a hooka???? Yuck! I hope it was cheap wine and not good wine wasted!